Tag Archives: patreon

Theft, Murder, and Morals in Skyrim

Maven Black-BriarSkyrim made me want to murder.

I’m usually a kind video game player. I choose non-lethal options when available, act morally, and generally roleplay as a responsible (if sometimes abrupt) character when given the option. The character I played in Skyrim was an ambitious but magnanimous barbarian-mage, seeking the power to rule and protect. I didn’t seek to kill anyone unprovoked… until I met Maven Black-Briar.

Maven1 is the rich de-facto ruler of the city of Riften. She is rude, cruel, and entitled. In a world of racist Vikings and execution-happy Imperials, she stands out to me as the most loathsome humanoid character. Sure, there are strange avian hags that eat people and vampiric assassins, but she is just a brewery owner who’s happy to kill and torture and extort for personal wealth and power. She mirrors her city, a place that represents corruption and villainy, and in doing so says a lot about Skyrim‘s attitude toward morality.

She’s also immortal.

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  1. Despite sounding like a title, “Maven” is her first name.

Character Select: Marvel vs. Capcom 3

The character select screen for Marvel vs Capcom 3Sparky’s Den, in the Memorial Union at Arizona State University, is a bowling alley and arcade where I spent many of my summer late afternoons as a young teenager. I can’t find any photos of their arcade online, so I don’t know if they still have the old Dungeons and Dragons or Alien vs. Predator beat-em-ups, the Gauntlet Legends machine, the copy of Silent Scope.

The Marvel vs. Capcom machine.

I don’t have the same love of fighting games and arcades that a lot of video game folks seem to. I was never good at split-second reflexes, and my arcade time was limited to short spans after a summer program for gifted kids that was held at the university. Fighting games were weird curiosities: colorful characters equipped with secret moves in fanciful stages. The fighting games I remember are odd ones: Battle Beast, from a PC Gamer demo disk, or the inexplicable Golden Axe: The Duel. And I definitely remember Marvel vs. Capcom.

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The Evil of Farm Story 2

IMG_0948There is evil in this world. Some is systemic, titanic, nigh-insurmountable. And some is petty, banal, all the more troubling for its triviality. Farm Story 2 is the lesser evil. It’s the whispering, cloying, harrying serpent at the heel of gamers.

Farm Story 2 is evil in a way that inspires not rebellion, but pity.

This is a well-crafted game. There are barely any bugs and the art is attractive if generic. The bug-eyed chickens are charming, and it has a scamp of a kid who is adorable until the third or fourth time they implore you to install another of Storm8’s insipid games. I don’t have a quarrel with any of the (mercifully uncredited) people who worked on the game. My issue is with the environment who produced such a work. Let’s explore the darkness at its depths.

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Odin Sphere: Muggle Escabeche à la Erion

RabbitCafe
When Odin Sphere was released, it was a game from a parallel dimension where 3D technology never caught on. Now, though, it sits among Rayman Origins, Dust: an Elysian Tale, Ori And The Blind Forest, and many others in presenting gorgeous living, breathing, hand-crafted art and a strong visual aesthetic. Looking back, then, there’s one thing I remember about Odin Sphere.

Food.

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You Can’t Control Clash of Clans

My town in Clash of ClansGames are as much about what they don’t let you do as what they do. Figure and ground. The tools they withhold from you are often more important than the tools they provide. Constraint guides cleverness and creativity.

Supercell’s Clash of Clans is a fairly typical free-to-play mobile game on its surface. You build a town. It takes a while. You can pay money to make it take less of a while. You build troops, and they follow the same pattern. What’s a bit unusual is that you can rearrange your town, and the layout you choose matters. When a town is raided, the placement of its defenses means the difference between winning and losing. Especially because you can’t control your troops.

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The Feline Grace of Neko Atsume

Neko Atsume screenshot
Neko Atsume is a game with feline sensibilities. It doesn’t beg for your attention. It’s often inscrutable. Sometimes you’re not sure why you keep it around.

More games should be like this.

Neko Atsume is a gently brilliant deconstruction of mobile games and how we approach Pokemon-style collecting. Through its passive and cryptic approach, it encourages the player to approach it with intention as opposed to most games’ eager-to-please style. It might be the Dark Souls of pet simulators.

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“Hot Date:” Realistic Pug Conversation Simulator

Hot Date 2015-06-30 18-36-20-86I’m not fond of pugs. They seem like the kind of dog that PewDiePie would own. But then I’m a cat person rather than a dog person, which means I would rather have a creature vomit on my floor than drool on my face. But I understand the appeal of pugs, if only in an academic sense. If neoteny, or immature looks, plays a strong role in our love for pets, then pugs are Dr. Moreau’s attempts at dog-babies: all bulging eyes and lolling mouths.

Hot Date” lets you speed-date them.
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Minecraft Is About Transcending Minecraft

I first played Minecraft in 2009 back when it was an Infiniminer clone being developed on the Tigsource forums. It was immediately clear to a bunch of people that it was something special but no one could have guessed what the game would become in just a few years. It may be the most popular game of all time. It’s definitely the most popular game among kids right now. Odd, then, that most of the Minecraft experience is about not playing Minecraft.

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Drowning a Deity – Bioshock Infinite: Burial At Sea Episode 2

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BurialatSeaEpisode2_WEB
The Bioshock series is about power and history. Power from flesh and history transformed. I’ve explored its biopunk underpinnings before, but I haven’t explored the most recent and oroborosian entry in the series: Bioshock Infinite: Burial at Sea Episode 2. It strips the wings from a deity in the service of motivating events in the first game that didn’t need justification, but in the process it introduces some interesting stealth elements in a game not originally built for them.

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Orcs Must Die: Blocking Strategies

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I have a confession: I’m a turtler. And Orcs Must Die 2 doesn’t want me to be.

The game I think of when I read “tower defense” is “Desktop Tower Defense.” It’s my mental archetype of that form, which arose from mods for Starcraft and Warcraft III: a game about preventing waves of invading enemies, or “creeps,” from reaching the exit of a map using stationary towers that attack when the creeps come into range; these towers are built with a budget you earn by killing creeps.

The strategy for “Desktop TD” is primarily about crafting a path for the creeps, one which is circuitous as possible. The towers in “Desktop TD” are solid, so they block creeps, making your towers also serve as your maze. Mastering “Desktop TD,” therefore, requires you to craft a perfect maze, a gleaming labyrinth made from the cheapest towers with just enough addition of special tower types and more powerful, upgraded towers.

Some tower defense games, like “Desktop TD’s” contemporary “Flash Elements TD” have a simpler approach where the creep paths are static and unobstructable. Towers can only be placed in the spaces around the path. I find this approach less interesting, as it allows for less creativity and diversity of play. The most a player can do to affect the process of the creeps, beyond killing them, is by slowing them, often with a tower themed around ice or viscous fluid. Orcs Must Die and the other games I’ll discuss here owe more to the “Desktop TD” style.

The Orcs Must Die series by Robot Entertainment belongs to a subfamily of tower defense games, probably birthed by Sanctum. These tower defense hybrids add a mobile player character with weapons that can supplement the stationary towers. In the case of the Orcs series, the player character is a martial wizard defending a fantasy world against hordes of orcs and other creatures. But unlike Sanctum, its differences go beyond just letting you help your towers with their work.

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