Why I Love: Kentucky Route Zero

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I was afraid to write about this because I am always worried about spoiling this kind of stuff.  So if you are going to play this game or you haven’t finished it, I’d rather you do that first before reading this, because I don’t really think there is a way to talk about this without spoiling any of it.  Please go do so.  If you have absolutely no intentions of finishing or playing this game, or you’ve already finished it, feel free to continue on.  

There will be no spoiler tags.  

So, again, be sure that if you want to play without spoilers, stop here.  


A lot of games have less than 50% of owners playing it.  Kentucky Route Zero is like 10-20%.  I feel bad because I think gamers tend to underestimate how good writing, literally the words, juxtaposition, and everything else, can be so strong.  Kentucky Route Zero takes that and structures it around an interactive, choice-making medium in such a way that doesn’t take away from the way words evoke feeling and meaning just because you can see actions or make choices.  Its strength still feels as powerful as any traditional writing.  It truly is a visual novel.

I went into Kentucky Route Zero thinking it was overhyped.  It’s been a long time since I’ve played a classic adventure/point and click style game, although admittedly this game doesn’t really have puzzles.  So I went in not knowing what to expect.  Which…is no surprise because I tend to go blindly into games, because I like that.  Immediately I love the simplistic style in the graphics.  It makes things feel vague and mysterious.  You can’t see any of the character’s faces.  They’re just blank.  Movement can sometimes feel sluggish.  You spend a lot of time just looking.  

The way the game presents itself is like myth and folklore.  But not in the manner of viral videos or YouTubers talking about stuff.  It’s like the normal everyday life of the belief.  Everything feels all matter of fact.  The perspective of the characters isn’t in shock.  It’s a different cultural structure.  It reminds me of how my family still works with balances of elements in Feng Shui.  They just kind of exist and we exist within that sphere.  Or one that is a little strange is that there are raccoon spirits in the households.  If someone talks about them, there is no surprise if it is the spirit that caused something.   There’s no unbelief.  There is even an ancestral chart for the different spirits that have passed through the household.  To be clear, this is not a Chinese thing, it is just lore from the family.  

And saying that something happened by the raccoon spirits is not ignorance, it’s living within the in between of what is real and our mythos.  Whether or not the scenes we experience in Kentucky Route Zero are real, take place in the afterlife, or are folklore, is not important.  What’s important is that they happened and were felt.  


There is a section about halfway through the series where you go on a trippy river called the Echo.  On the Echo I notice a theme where everyone who lives there or hangs out there often becomes wanderers.  They tend to forget why they travelled on the Echo.  They end up drifting everywhere.  There are so many stories that you can listen to and experience on this river. Before long on the Echo, I too forgot what I was there for.  I became enveloped in the unique lifestyle of living in this place that resides in between the lines.  Sure, we could say that it was the fact that this river winds for what feels like forever, but the presentation and experience was quite interesting.

One of my favorite moments was in a mostly empty store.  The only thing showing you what is happening is text and audio.  There are no graphics to describe these scenes.  You can hear the hum of these machines that hold liquid in them.   When you approach it the audio changes to represent that.  And when you reach into one of the containers your mind wanders.  The audio softens to represent that as well.  It’s simple, and feels obvious, but reading text and feeling that audio is a fantastic experience.  It’s not so far that it’s video gamey.  It leans much further into the literature side of things, while also not being an audio book.  

It is also perhaps the minimalist style that also makes room for the written word.  Each graphical effect and gameplay element doing their duty, which is to tell a story through feelings, emotions, and words.  There is so much reading here.  And that is not a bad thing.  I think it tends to drive gamers away, but they’re missing out.  I love that so many of the characters are not there for you.  You might be playing the main character, but the other characters don’t really care.  I love that there is so much dialogue that is not necessary.  The only necessity is if you want to take a look at these people in this world.

Speaking of taking a look, I think one of my favorite parts are the little micro episode things in between each normal episode.  There is one where it’s just a phone and a phone number.  You call the number and it’s an information service for tourism along the Zero.  I spent a VERY, VERY long time listening to this phone.  I even leaned my head against something on my shoulder as if I had the phone in real life and was listening to it for long periods of time.  I suppose if I was not clear, this is an old wired phone.  Maybe it helps that it looks so much like the one my family had while growing up.  

Listening to this information recording talk about the different parts of the Zero as it’s a whole entire world unknown to us is so fascinating.  And then there’s the fact that it always leaves something to the imagination.  There’s always a little more mystery than can be exposed.  There’s always a little something more to the mythos.  It gives the feeling of how small we are in a world of myth and reality.  

Here’s another in-between episode that I loved.  I mean, these episodes still take place in the world of Kentucky Route Zero, so it’s not like we’re wasting time on these, but I believe they are optional.  There is one where you watch this play in this very small theatre.  If you look around you can also read how the play came to be and stories around the actors and audience’s reactions.  There’s a surreal experience of learning such in depth material about something that you’re in the process of watching.  It feels so personal that I can’t help but feel a weird relationship between the actors and also the actors as people.  It’s that strange feeling of reaching into the depths of a world we know so little about, and in the end, it’s still about people.  


I tried to be spoilery but I still kind of failed.  Ha!  I think I enjoy Kentucky Route Zero because it reminds me of the life I live.  My life is full of mythos, not for the sake of fun or role playing, but because that’s how it is.  I think I resonate with Kentucky Route Zero because it captures folklore very well.  I also love it because it feels very sentimental: here, feelings are more important than facts.  

Which brings me to my last point.  I started this blog to talk about good game design, but I find myself lately talking about things in sentimentality.  I am a very emotional person, what can I say?  However, this usually doesn’t make good writing.  I apologize for this, as I have decided to continue on this sentimental route.  I will still talk as if talking to a friend.  I’m not here to write an essay, even in my deep dives.  I obviously still talk about game design, but ultimately this is a website about praising games, and that tends to bring along with it a lot of sentiment.  So thank you for reading if you do.

Kentucky Route Zero is a very sentimental game.  I don’t want people playing it if they’re not going to like it.  I am worried people will think it will be a tremendous waste of time, but I feel that those who do resonate with it will have one of the best experiences in gaming.  Ever.

Kentucky Route Zero is #9 on the ULTRA.  

Thanks for reading.  I’ll see you next time.

Elise

Comparison: The Meta Boss

The Toxic Wasteland

If you’ve read my blog …or whatever this is, you probably already know that I like to play single player games.  I’m not a competitive person.  Or…rather I should say, I hate comparing myself to other people.  It always ends up being a bunch of self-deprecating madness.  But…every time I am playing a game that has stats I open it up and check on it often.  Why do I do that?  Why is that so important?  Am I insecure?  What the world is going on and why, why does this have to be a thing?  Today, I’m going to look into that.  I’m Elise.  This is Game Praisers Deep Dive.

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Instagram is a deadly place.  As an artist, it can be extremely inspiring.  It can also be one of the absolute worst things to look at before heading into a new project.  There have been many times where I just feel totally horrible after just having improved the night before, because I decided it would be a good idea to look at some “inspirational” pictures.  That was not a good idea.

But, these pictures can inspire me.  I know they can because they have.  This is a competition.  And you know what makes it harder?  In games, it’s worse.  In video games I can look at the scoreboard and say, “Wow, I am just bringing my whole team down.”  If I look at the top player on my team, I don’t receive inspiration.  I don’t look at an amazing kill-death ratio / KDR, or as I feel many games see it now, kill-death-assists / KDA and feel inspired.  Maybe I can see inspiration when I watch professional games like ESL or Homestory Cup in Starcraft 2.  Yeah, I can, but never can I look at the people I am directly competing against and feel inspiration.  I have never, unless I personally know that player, ever gained some sort of encouragement by looking at another top player even if they’re on my side.

When we compare ourselves to others, it is usually us on the lower end of the comparison.  We’re the ones who are insufficient.1  And in the case of video games, it doesn’t matter if they’re on our side or not, these carriers are evidence that we are a weak link.  And although it has happened before, you don’t hear a lot of encouragement from your teammates when you’re not doing well.  Few competitive environments are more toxic than the video game ones.  I once played a game against medium difficulty bots in League of Legends because I wanted to see a character’s animations without going to a blurry Youtube video.  Someone was absolutely furious that someone else was in the same lane as them.  They started feeding the enemy team and then half way through the match they left.  This was a bot game.  It wasn’t even on the hardest difficulty of bots.  This is an example of the kind of people we deal with.

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But I never feel that in Guild Wars 2.  When I see someone with amazing equipment I never think, “Gosh, I wish I was as diligent and focused as that player.”  Maybe to a small extent, but never to an effect.  Nowadays it would be more like I wish I had time, which is a whole different problem.  There they are though, walking around with all their cool gear.   Guild Wars 2 is a social game, and it’s been shown that spending time on social networking things tends to make people more depressed.2  Except… there is a context we’re missing here.  Guild Wars 2 does not place me in competition, especially concerning that most of it is PvE for me.  Social networking does.  By the nature of what I do, what I like, who I choose to hang out with, they all point towards things similar to me.  So of course I’m going to end up with other artists on Instagram.  Of course I will end up with other people who play games on Facebook until I purged it of every acquaintance and false friend.  And of course there is the whole entirety of women, including women characters, that make me feel in competition with being attractive.  I don’t think I need to tell you that it does not help.3  That’s the whole point.  And when it comes down to performing well in the context of others… that’s the whole point of competitive gaming.

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It’s very difficult to pinpoint this because it’s such a specific social thing.  There aren’t that many studies that directly correlate to this.  I found a thesis on it, and while it has some nice insights, it’s just one study.  The writers themselves have noted that it is possible, and needs looking into, that playing PvP/competitive games can detract from the positive social aspects of video games.4   Self-determination theory claims that humans need a feeling of competence, autonomy, and relatedness.5  These are underlying things that help increase self-esteem and more so, motivation.  Random and unprompted positive feedback helps people feel competent and motivates them to work hard.  Relatedness as well.  Both things that are…lacking in the environment of competitive video gaming.  

Personally, I believe that to combat this we need self control and self esteem.  Self control to understand our needs concerning our games that we play.  Don’t play a competitive game to blow off steam if you know it’s going to make you upset.  Some people can play competitive games to calm down, but be sure that you are one of those people if you’re going to do it.  Think about what games would best fit for however you’re feeling.  My experience with video games has gotten a little better since I’ve tried to adjust myself to playing what would be best in the moment.  Sometimes it’s just whatever I feel like.  Gatekeeping myself from playing something else because I have to finish another game has almost always resulted in a less than optimal experience.  Though admittedly it’s not super bad, it is sometimes significant which affects how I feel about a game.  This is something I do not want just because I made myself more depressed or something.   

Then there is self esteem, which is a difficult thing for me.  I’m still working on this, and will likely be working on this my whole life.  Learning to be okay where we are as we try to improve is a big thing.  Sometimes it’s okay to not perform well some days.  What is important is that we are willing and trying to improve.  We can be happy with where we are now without compromising who we are trying to become.  But…easier said than done, right?

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So why do players still seek it out?  When Battlefield 2042 was released with a limited scoreboard people kept requesting and asking for a full scoreboard it until it finally was added, and it ended up being an announcement on many gaming sites.7, 8, 9, 10  And IGN’s subheader is literally a reference to what I’m talking about, saying, “Finally, proof my K/D ratio is trash.”11  While it is a joke, it is still frustrating to come back at the end of a long work day to play Valorant or something and then get frustrated not only because you feel like you’re letting down your team, but also because they’re yelling at you.  

For me, the extent was that I sought out these games because it could fulfill that feeling of competency and possibly even camaraderie.  It could, and when it did, it felt great.  Of course it felt great when I turned to Battlefield V after a long day and I was one of the top players on my team.  But these methods are reliant on volatile results and variables that may be outside our control.  They depend on whether or not you win, which in a team game, is very dangerous.  It could depend on either side’s attitude.  It depends on your performance, and that alone could be dangerous.  It could feel self-deprecating to see yourself not performing well.  And that one is possibly even more dangerous, because it is applicable to single player games.  And most importantly, it’s applicable to life.  If how we feel about ourselves and whether or not we’re happy with ourselves is dependent on performances, it could be a dreadful life.  

Comparison fulfills something in us, but it’s also something that is very easily out of our control.  Sometimes we just don’t do well.  Sometimes we make mistakes.  That is life.  This is not to say we shouldn’t try at all, or we shouldn’t be happy when we do well, but we cannot tie our intrinsic feeling of self worth because someone else performed well enough not only to destroy us on a bad day, but also teabag us after they did so.

Thanks for reading, stay safe, and I hope to see you again here at Game Praisers.

Elise

Citations:

  1. Gerber, J. P., Wheeler, L., & Suls, J. (2018). A social comparison theory meta-analysis 60+ years on. Psychological Bulletin, 144(2), 177–197. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000127
  2. Sunkyung Yoon, Mary Kleinman, Jessica Mertz, Michael Brannick, Is social network site usage related to depression? A meta-analysis of Facebook–depression relations, Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 248, 2019, Pages 65-72, ISSN 0165-0327,  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2019.01.026.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0165032718321700)
  3. Jacqueline V. Hogue, Jennifer S. Mills, The effects of active social media engagement with peers on body image in young women, Body Image, Volume 28, 2019, Pages 1-5, ISSN 1740-1445, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.11.002.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S174014451730517X)
  4. Zhao, F. (2022). The role of social video game play and relatedness in players’ well-being [Master’s thesis]. University of Oxford.
  5. Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2017). Self-determination theory. Basic psychological needs in motivation, development, and wellness.
  6. Vallerand, Robert & Reid, Greg. (1984). On the Causal Effects of Perceived Competence on Intrinsic Motivation: A Test of Cognitive Evaluation Theory. Journal of Sport Psychology. 6. 94-102. 10.1123/jsp.6.1.94. 
  7. https://www.polygon.com/22891186/battlefield-2042-scoreboard-patch-update
  8. https://www.gamespot.com/articles/battlefield-2042-is-finally-adding-new-scoreboard-see-it-here/1100-6499759/
  9. https://www.thegamer.com/battlefield-2042-scoreboard-update-live/
  10. https://www.pcgamer.com/battlefield-2042-new-scoreboard/
  11. https://www.ign.com/articles/battlefield-2042-update-scoreboard

Patch Notes 2023.01.11

Well. I haven’t had a lot of time to write in this blog thing, let alone play video games. Life smacked me pretty hard over the weekend with an unexpected, unfortunate event that puts me in a not so great position. I had to leave my job and I am conflict with some of my family members.

I’m still going around reading people’s blogs and stuff, but my own gaming is minimal at the moment. I will still try to write what I can when I can, but honestly it’s not looking too great. I am taking this time to work more on myself, my art, and especially my situation.

Balance Updates:

  • Had to remove starting living area due to conflicts
  • We decided to move the Advanced Independence tutorial to a lower level for players to get accustomed to the starting living area changes.
  • Game rate has been nerfed from 3.7 to 1.6.
  • Starcraft II’s setting has been set to R instead of P.
  • Art rate has been increased from 0.7 to 1.9, but energy spent has increased from 1.2 to 1.4.
  • Fixed Sims not being able to shower after repairing their shower.
  • We are aware of the music not looping or playing during certain circumstances are we’re looking into this.
  • New User max storage capacity changed from 500 to 20. Players can upgrade their storage capacity through leveling and in-game currency, capping out at the original 500.

It’s a new year, and it’s…troubling. But I’m doing my best just to stay afloat for now. I still need to finish Skyward Sword.

Stay safe.
Elise

Top 25 Pieces of Media of 2022

This is taken from another writing thing that I do, so it’s copy-pasted, but it should still be relevant.

Hey everyone!  This is an EXTREMELY LONG post that contains the Top 25 pieces of media I’ve consumed this year (there is a TLDR at the bottom). This is anything that I’ve finished or finished consuming within the year 2022.  This includes movies, music, tv shows, books, and any other thing that…I will consider media.  Things that were released in 2022 are marked with an *.  Other markers such as seasonal markers for TV shows like (1) are still used here.  For convenience I am not going to bother with the archiving/ULTRA format concerning languages for most of them because I’m lazy.

 I’ve also been asked if I get any money for advertising games and stuff.  I don’t.  I just want you guys to be able to have access to them.  I’m not listing all the accessibilities.  These are just off the top of my head, so keep in mind there may be other ways to access the given media.  Alright.  Let’s start with some honorable mentions:

Game: Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons:*

I don’t know why but I wasn’t super impressed with End of Dragons.  I still love Guild Wars, and it’s still great, but something about End of Dragons just felt very off.  It probably doesn’t help that it was developed during Covid’s biggest damage.  The most impressive thing though are the new subclasses from this expansion.  They’ve all been great.  The base game is on PC for free.

Film: The Bad Guys*

A delightful movie that came from a book that I had no idea about.  The film is very cute and well done.  Definitely worth a watch.  I think it’s still on Netflix.

Film: The Black Phone*

A very good horror film that feels good.  I mean, it feels like the crew really cared about this film.  It’s different and the actors do a very good job.  It’s a weird idea, but it is executed well.  I’m not going to say much about the contents, I suggest going for it and just watching it.  It’s good.

Anime: Lupin the Third (1)

The first season of such an old anime.  It’s definitely old, because it’s got racist stuff, but it’s also interesting to see how much anime has changed, as well as how much this anime still stands.  It’s still really funny, and the characters are still great.  It’s just crazy to see how things have changed socially since then.  Also goes to show that just ‘cause something’s old doesn’t mean it is bad.

Game: Path of Exile and Genshin Impact

I will never stop playing these and Path of Exile 2 (when it releases) until I evaporate.

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Now for the actual Top 25.

#25.  (Song) 轉圈圈 – Crispy 脆樂團

The second this song hits, it’s like a chef’s kiss.  It still has that delicious feeling of city pop that I grew up with, and the theme of going in circles was a huge thing for me with me and my vices.  This year has been all about breaking the vicious cycles that I’ve been through, and listening to this song at the beginning of the year was like a final wave goodbye as I started a new character arc in life.  Also the music video of the woman doing the hula hoop in various places doing nothing but staring at the screen for some reason always gets me.

#24 (Game) Going Under

I did not know that this random rogue-lite satire about the working industry was going to hit this hard.  The game pokes at all the stupid stuff that offices and typical workplaces have flowed into.  Artistically this game is extreme graphic design, also in the way that it pokes at graphic design.  The humor is very good and I feel like pretty much all the satire hits all the right notes.  Camera and combat are a tad janky, but you get used to it.  You can pick up nearly everything in the rooms and use them as weapons, with puns related to office objects and other stuff.  There’s an entire dungeon that is about stock and bitcoin.  Soundtrack is a bop too. Get it on Steam.

#23 (Anime(?)) The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System

I know people will try to say donghua, but no, I’m going to call it anime.  This is a 3D anime about a guy that is making fun of how dumb a web novel is, only to be reborn as the villain of the novel.  Since he knows he’s gonna get it at the end, he has to try and maneuver his way out of a bad ending, but the meta system prevents him from straight up being good, since he’s supposed to be a villain.  He has to play the system in this ridiculous and funny anime.  The budget for this is very low, so expect the animations to be… well, not high-budgeted.  We’re hoping for a second season that has a better budget, but it’s hard to survive in China as media.  Ugh.  It was on YouTube, I’m not sure where to watch it now.  It might still be there?  It is on Prime, but not if you’re in the USA.  =_=

#22 (Game) Assassin’s Creed: Origins

I played through all the Assassin’s Creed games up to Origins so far.  And finally.  Finally Ubisoft made an Assassin’s Creed game that was just…good.  Ironically, it’s higher up than Going Under, but it didn’t get on my top 12.  There are still huge chunks of it that still have that weird Ubisoft game feel that is slimy to me.  But they portrayed Egypt very, very well and the assassin Bayek is a really awesome character.  While I do like the more RPG-ish system, the way the different locations felt were all the same, even if they looked different.  For some reason the game just felt…so…the same the whole time even though the world was so big.  But still, it’s a beautiful world.  The expansions are very good as well.

You can play it on Uplay, Steam, and other major consoles excluding Switch.

#21 (Album) Further Joy, by the Regrettes*

The Regrettes’ songs are always so darn catchy.  They almost always have the f-word in it, which is a bummer.  But this album has like one third of the songs that don’t have it, and those are all REALLY GOOD.  Subtleties, La Di Da, Rosy, Step 9, and Nowhere are all just really really good.  Darn it.  

#20 (Book) Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? By Michael J. Sandel

I tend to read books that are sociology related, but here is one that is…never mind this can also count as sociology related.  This is a really darn good book that goes through what justice is like for different viewpoints.  I’m all for learning and listening for understanding and it’s very interesting seeing how my views correlate with parts of other things set by people like Kant, Aristotle, and more.  It’s a shame that students consider it just another GE book just for class, because it’s definitely worth keeping on the shelf.

#19 (Game)Final Fantasy VIII

SPOILERS

Final Fantasy does it again.  And by does it again I mean I couldn’t finish it again.  (I never actually finished III).  Games that require you to adopt a specific way of play in order to win really, really, really, turn me off.   Everything about this game is fantastic, except near the very end where if you weren’t playing the most “efficient” way of playing you’re …you’re gonna have a really hard time if you don’t cheese.  And that doesn’t stand with me.  It would be a lot higher on this list if it wasn’t for this.  

SPOILERS END

It’s on Steam now if you want to play it though.

#18 (Song) 光の方へ – Ayano Kaneko

A song about …well, it’s more thoughts to music.  All nostalgic.  You don’t really even need to understand the lyrics.  Just know that it’s nostalgic thoughts.  This takes me back to driving in the parts of Asia you don’t usually see.  The rice fields.  The small roads with the little tiny family owned breakfast place that has the friggin best sandwiches in the world.  Festivals. The rocky shores with only a few people wandering around.  The alleyways in East Asia that people walk on that all look the same.  If you know you know.  This song is that. This song is all those things and thoughts liquefied into song form.  Frick.  It’s good.  Also her voice is phenomenal.

#17 (Anime) Sailor Moon (1)

…I really loved Sailor Moon.  I said “I loved” because I felt pressured not to show that for obvious social reasons.  But as you can see from my name now, I don’t friggin’ care about that anymore.  I love Sailor Moon.  Yeah, it’s still a cheesy kids show but it hits all the teenage girl motifs that I totally missed out on in life.  Some things are crazily outdated, but it still ends up being a fun and extremely historic anime that should not be unknown.  Some of the villains would give kids nightmares though.  Goodness.

#16 (Film) Minari

What is with this year?  This film about a Korean family moving around and trying to get their hold in rural United States is painfully real.  The feeling of getting kicked down by the strange world and trying to operate in a way that lives in both worlds.  I always love films that don’t have conventional story movement, and this one is one of those.  If you’re an immigrant to the United States or have some history being in between two worlds, this is the film to watch.  Just again, be aware it’s not normal Hollywood.  It almost travels near the shallow ends of art house film.  Not sure where to watch this.  Obviously, digitally you can get it on Prime.  

#15 (Film) Turning Red*

Dang it, Elise.  Seriously?  Yes.  Another thing about being Asian.  I love this movie.  I admit the first time didn’t hit me as hard, but the second time I watched it it hit me hard.  I was bawling.  It gets so many things right about what it was like being Chinese in white North America.  Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, it was riddled with criticisms from all over the spectrum.  Doesn’t matter.  This film was good and I stand by it.  You can watch it through Disney+.

#14 (Album) PEP by Lights*

Another album with some f-words in it.  Sorry about that.  But Prodigal Daughter, Salt & Vinegar, Beside Myself and especially Money in the Bag are so DARN GOOD.  Lights has consistently been one of the best musicians I’ve listened to and while I am steering away from the increasing amount of bad worded songs, she still does an amazing job with…everything.  It helps that she’s not always singing about love.  Ever since her EP she’s been one of the singers on the playlists.  She was also my most listened to artist on Spotify this year.  

#13 (Anime) When They Cry / ひぐらしのなく頃に (1)

A violent anime about a town where people go crazy?  Sign me up!  At first it seems like a weird repeating trip of who dunnit and violent people, but the further it goes the more heart it has and you realize people…deal with stuff mentally.  There are a few arcs where it really highlights how painful it is to go through trauma without emotional support.  And while these are extreme cases heightened by the scenario given in the series, the pain is no less valid by those who go through it in real life.  There is a lot of child violence that is pretty visceral, so be aware of that if you’re going to go in.  For me, I feel a lot of heart in this anime because I feel so much empathy for what the characters go through and I wish better for them.  Well…most of them.  

#12 (Anime) Scissor Seven (1-3)

A Chinese anime that is kiiinda weird.  But in a really good way.  Although it starts out seemingly silly, it starts getting serious…er.  It’s still hilarious but the plot gets going.  As with most anime, I just love all the heart in it.  I mean, also it’s Chinese, and seeing Chinese media well received is so nice.  I just wish it came with even more understanding and acceptance in the community as well.  It’s done something though, so I can’t complain.  The animation is really awesome and well done while also being able to play off some great humor.  You can watch it on Netflix.  A film is also going to be released.  Cola.

#11 (Film) It’s a Wonderful Life

I just watched this film like a week ago and it’s really darn good.  It’s nothing like I thought it was going to be (I always dodged any info on it) and people said it was amazing so on a whim I watched it and I LOVE IT.  IT’S SO GOOD.  This really is such a good film and I’ll definitely stuff into the sack of what to watch for Christmas now.  Why didn’t I watch it sooner?  Why!?  Not sure I want to say anything about it because I love blindly walking in, but if you need to know it’s about a guy named George Bailey who is a hard working guy and crap keeps going on in his life.  Go watch it to learn what I mean by this.  I watched it on Amazon, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it shows up on other stuff during the holidays.

#10 (TV Show) Oni: Thunder God’s Tale*

I have no idea what genre to call this.  Some people call it anime but…I…I don’t know what it is.  Pseudo stop-motion animated thingy.  Anyway, it’s by Tonko House, so I already expected a lot, but holy crap this is really well done.  It’s a short four episode series that can be watched more like a long film if you want.  The voice actors did really well and the animation and story are just heart-melting.  It’s cute darn it.  It’s on Netflix.

#9: (Anime/Film) A Silent Voice

Death.  I mean, this film slaughtered my soul.  It’s hard to cram a whole series of trauma and life lessons into a film, and they tried here.  They did well.  If you’ve dealt with bullying, trauma, or disability, this is a good film to watch.  It might kick you in the guts though.  I was just weeping.  I missed out on some because it was all blurry and I couldn’t see but it was good.  It was good.  Films like this are good to help us take another perspective into what life is like for others and learn sympathy or empathy.  Oh, the story, right.  A young man who was a bully to a deaf girl ends up being outcast himself.  Later through his interactions with the girl, he learns to grow out of his trauma while she struggles with her deafness.  It’s very psychologically heavy.  It was on Netflix last I saw. 

#8 (Film) Nobody

Bob Odenkirk is a bada** and awesome in this film.  Enough said.  But seriously, for a film all about action and fun craziness, it’s still really well done as a film.  That only adds to how fricking fun this film is.  I think it’s on HBOMax right now.

#7 (Game) Prey

Arkane Studios is such a darn good studio.  They made the Dishonored series, and while this isn’t as good as Dishonored, it’s still really, really well done.  They’re so good at writing about a world.  It’s a horror game that is more actiony, but definitely still has some good scares.  Arkane once again writes an amazing world where it questions what it means to be good, but now with a sci-fi setting.  I accidentally almost 100%ed the game.  Yes.  Accidentally.  That’s how good it is.

#6 (Film) The Batman*

I was super hyped for this, and I was not disappointed.  Other than the fact that I had to go the bathroom for like two hours in the theater, this film was very well done.  Batman is always a great hero because he tends to be pretty human, even if he is rich, but in this one I think it probably is one of the most vulnerable showings of what Batman and his identity is.  Everything feels real and gloomy.  We may not live in a world of superheroes and supervillains, but the commentary of what this film says about life shows that people can definitely act like either one.

#5 (Film) All Quiet on the Western Front*

Uhm…this is a really good film.  You likely know the classic World War I story about the innocence of young boys strangled out by war.  This film is brutal, intense, and extremely well executed.  Another film that shows us just how sad and messed up war is while remembering what it is like to be human.  It’s on Netflix.

#4 (TV Show) Reservation Dogs (1)

A comedy-drama show about life on the Native American reservation.  The pacing is great, and it has a setting that isn’t visited enough.  I mean, mostly because this show is super well executed.  It’s super hilarious and really touching, but it also has a TON of f-words.  All over the place.  Frick.  It’s on Hulu.

#3 (TV Show) Better Call Saul (1-3)

Man, I’m not even done with this series.  It’s so darn good.  Who would’ve thought that a spin off could be so darn solid as its own series?  It’s less unnecessarily boob-swinging and inappropriate as it’s main show Breaking Bad, and it’s shot and written in a way that just shows what it’s like to make a masterpiece.  Definitely worth watching.  I’m not even done, so it’s probably going to show up on Top 25 Media of 2023 with the rest of the seasons.  Ha!  It’s on Netflix right now.

#2 (Anime/Film) Whisper of the Heart

Am I cheating here?  Yes.  Totally.  This film was already on the Top 12, but was re-reviewed.  I totally thought I was overrating this.  But I watched it again and I was beaten to death.  Yeah, I’m totally cheating by putting this on here again.  I just love it so much.  A very heartfelt and cute coming of age film about two youngsters finding out who they are to themselves.  It’s very…normal.  It feels like us trying to reach for nostalgia in a world that doesn’t exist and failing.  It feels like that as a film.  Yeah, I cried.  Heh, no surprise.

#1 (Game) Kentucky Route Zero

THIS. FRIGGIN. MASTERPIECE.  This is an audio/visual novel masterpiece that rocked me.  I can’t.  It’s so darn good.  This Americana fantasy realism adventure is so good.  Sometimes I am just speechless.  Ugh, I remember looking at this game and thinking, what the crap is so good that critics are saying about this weird lookin’ game?  

No.  I was wrong.  It’s so so so so soooo good.  Treat it like an experience, because that’s kinda what it is.  Sometimes the sound design is like wow.  I am…living a book right now.  It hits all the weird spiritual, ethereal notes that I love about Americana that I loved in Over the Garden Wall.  Its tone is much more serious and heavy, but man it’s so good.  The fantasy parts don’t even matter that it’s fantasy because it might as well be real.  All the experiences that we have in them might as well be real.  As you travel and learn more about the mysterious Route Zero, you’ll find yourself in head spaces that make you think and feel what it’s like to be in between spaces and existence.  I don’t know how to explain it.  Actually I do, I’m writing a review for it that will be more in depth.  However, it will have spoilers, and I definitely don’t want to spoil this for you.  Even if you’re not someone who plays games, this is a classic adventure game that will not rely on your gaming skills.  It’s simply an experience.  And it’s a darn good one. The writing is fantastic.  Just fantastic.  Okay, I’m done.  It’s good.  

It’s very…art house.  So I’m sorry if you play it and it just doesn’t connect well.  But I’m going to stand by this and say Kentucky Route Zero was easily the best piece of media I consumed this year.  It landed on #9 on the ULTRA.  It’s on Steam.

Thanks for reading all this.  Tell me some of your favorite media below!  I would love to hear from you and your recommendations!  And if you wanted a TLDR, here’s the list below:

  1. Kentucky Route Zero
  2. Whisper of the Heart
  3. Better Call Saul (1, 2)
  4. Reservation Dogs (1)
  5. All Quiet on the Western Front
  6. The Batman
  7. Prey
  8. Nobody
  9. A Silent Voice
  10. Oni: Thundergod’s Tale (1)
  11. It’s a Wonderful Life
  12. Scissor Seven
  13. Higurashi
  14. PEP, by lights
  15. Turning Red
  16. Minari
  17. Sailor Moon (1)
  18. 光の方へ – Ayano Kaneko
  19. Final Fantasy VIII
  20. Justice
  21. Further Joy, by The Regrettes
  22. Assassin’s Creed: Origins
  23. Scumbag
  24. Going Under
  25. 轉圈圈 – Crispy 脆樂團

Honorable Mentions:

  • Lupin III (1)
  • The Bad Guys
  • Guild Wars 2: End of Dragons
  • The Black Phone
  • Genshin Impact and Path of Exile

The Apex of the Classroom

“Just” a demo

In a high school classroom, there sits a bunch of students.  This is a computer room.  This is an idle time for some of the students who have finished early.  Some of them start the 3D pinball game that used to be available on Windows back then.  It’s normal.  The teacher doesn’t care.  But then one of them starts a game that is also already on the computer, and the teacher gets up to try and stop them.

It’s the demo for Halo: Combat Evolved.

One of the cool things about radical or restricted parts of society is how it evolves.  Just like in evolutionary biology, isolated groups can result in very interesting cultures.  We can think of how the Hardy-Weinberg Principle of population genetics being broken can affect the way cultures evolve and grow.  I think one of the difficult things about that now is that games take place in the virtual internet and chats.  Although it is far more difficult for this to happen, evolution in the folk tales of gamers can still happen.  It’s just that in a more radical situation like a classroom, it evolves in a crazier way.

These days things can blow up really easily.  We have social media and ease of access to thank for that.  But in an isolated setting, even if temporary like a classroom, new cultures coming in have to adapt.  The culture specifically being boredom in the classroom. We see isolated cultures have pretty big effects such as being in the military, being a monk in a monastery, or in a creepy cult that is practicing suspicious activities.  Sometimes it’s just a matter of speech and slang, but other times it becomes weird actions and hideaways.  That’s what Halo was.  

You’d see people gathering at the computer rooms to play Halo during lunchtime.  I don’t know what it’s like now, but back then most classrooms didn’t have computers in them.  During that time the teachers really didn’t care, because they wanted to eat lunch.  Some of them did, because the game exhibited violence.  Remember this was the 2000s, people were more worried about that back then.  But most of the time the teachers were okay and so there they were.  Sometimes the teacher would play with them.

But here’s the thing, the people playing, they weren’t playing because they were gamers.  No, they were playing because there were only a few other options worth going for.  Minesweeper, which some people didn’t want to learn how to understand, and the 3D pinball game.  So…the third option was Halo.  Yes, I know there was solitaire, freecell, and some others, but only the teachers seemed to play those.  Back then not everyone had phones, and the internet was being watched over so most websites like MySpace were blocked.  

You want to know the best part?  The teacher that came over to turn off the game then tried to find a way to remove it off the computer.  Tried being the keyword.  Computers were still a new concept to people, and they didn’t know how to get rid of it.  And even if they could, it didn’t matter.  The game was a demo, and demos are free.  It would pop up again.  It was unstoppable and insatiable.  It was going to be there whether you liked it or not. In this case, games, uh, find a way.  

I personally don’t feel like it was any harm.  Most of the time the students playing were doing so at lunch or after they were done with their work.  I just find it so interesting that they would eke out this existence every time.  It was consistent.  The computers of classrooms with unrelated subjects had the game on it.  Every. Single. Time.  Like in biology, it was selected for.  The competition was removed.  Other games have tried popping up to no avail.  Finding workarounds to visit flash game websites were uncommon, although I did find a way to do that.  It was just this silly demo of a sci-fi game that was strong and able enough to stay the course.

I think a lot of the evolution in the folklore of video games is usually pretty negative.  I attribute this to the fact that most video game stuff that goes to mainstream news are the ones that involve the outliers and scary people that do horrible things concerning video games.  Either that or video games cause violence…again.  But little bits like this Halo or people donating money for someone to get a stranger a new gaming computer.  I see no rules being broken, just people trying to have some fun.  Stories of the few or the generous, that is like sweet, delicious honey to my soul.  

I hope that the holidays are treating you well, and that we can remember how grateful we are to even be able to play the things we can now.  Thanks video games, and thank you to all of you who read this who are like that sweet honey, bringing joy through video games.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll see you next time.

Elise

Sold in Translation

The one-inch-tall barrier

Warning: Once again, I am talking about colonialism. If you don’t like that, there’s a TLDR at the bottom, and while I do apologize for the continued use of the topic, I do not apologize for talking about it itself.

I’m a subs kind of gal.  And before you stop me there, I should let you know that my position once again involves colonialism. So, are you willing to go against me now?  The reasons that I have are good. So good in fact, that it may surprise you that for the same reasons, ultimately for the sake of media itself, I’m wrong.  It’s a sad, blurred line.

This is Elise and this is Game Praisers Deep Dive, where I take a researched and thought out look at topics that I feel are more difficult or interesting that require more than just a glance.  I hope that we all learn something from this, and while I don’t think my perspective is perfect, I think it should be considered.


I don’t know if you were here when Parasite by Bong Joon-Ho came out in 2019 and 2020, but it is a phenomenal film.  Kind of horror, more thriller-ish style of film.  I don’t want to say anything without spoiling it.  In fact, I recommend watching it without knowing very much.  It is rated R by the MPAA though, just in case you have kiddos around.

My point is that it is a Korean film that won an incredible amount of awards and was recognized by the audiences in the United States.  So of course a foreign film that catches the attention is going to bring up that subs and dubs war.  I always believe the original version is the best intended for something like consumable media.  And so here I’m going to say, watch it in subs.  As the director said himself, “Once you overcome the one-inch-tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.”1 I think that’s very true.  Especially when it comes to acting, I think the cadence and movement of people are very important as to keeping the original feeling. 

However, I don’t like when people say subs are all superior, especially if it’s for the sake of keeping Japan-ness in things.  I know we were just talking about a Korean film but in all honesty the media of anime and video games usually concerns Japan.  I don’t want people saying “subs” to gatekeep.  That’s not the point.  It’s to preserve the cultural aspect of what it is.  Which is why I also argue the point of dubs.  

For people who can, subs are great.  But one cannot say that everyone can keep up with subtitles while watching something.  Some people struggle with things like dyslexia.  Some people are still learning to read English or whatever language they use.  For the people who are trying their best but at the moment can’t read, should have dubs.  The voice actors work very hard to try and be the characters as best as they can.  I trust them in their professionalism to do that.  So ultimately, yes, dubs are fine.  But if you can, I truly desire that you watch in subs.


This great success didn’t come with an amount of sacrifice though.  Success does not mean decolonization.  In fact, it could mean the opposite.  I mean, it’s great that things from Japan are so popular and mainstream now.  I can say that I like anime without people cringing at me now.  And yet…I can’t tell if it’s better.  I feel like there is a lot of moral licensing going around.  Once again, I’m going to outright say that it’s very possible that it just so happens to be in my gaming spheres.  So forgive me if this is just a bad coincidence.  

Moral licensing is kind of like tokenism.  The idea that because we accepted something about this foreign culture, we can now be lenient towards it afterwards.  It means we’re allowed to be a little more racist because we’ve accepted anime.  Obviously that is not the way, but I still see it in clubs and groups today.  Accepting culture is more than just saying you watched anime.  It’s more than just saying “baka”.  You can’t turn around and start making fun of Japanese food methods or traditional cultural beliefs just because you “know more” about Japan now / watch anime.  It just doesn’t work that way.


In Carlson and Corliss’ article about video game localization they start off talking about someone wanting to “be” Japanese.  It is completely fine to want to integrate yourself into a different community, especially if you come to an understanding of the cultural implications.  Not necessarily an acceptance, but an understanding. But “being” Japanese isn’t just about consuming the culture either.  It’s all the negatives and racism that comes with it.  It’s the baggage of the bad things your culture has done as well.  If you’re taking only the good things to be “foreign”, that’s colonialism.  Sometimes it’s literally that exoticism that attracts people though.2

Do you know what we did as Asians in the nineties in the USA?  A lot of us fought back at learning our own languages.  Especially those who were born in the United States and are not off the boat.  And a lot of us regret not learning our own languages now, because now it’s a nice attribute.  We colonized ourselves to try and fit in.  And now in a weird turnabout way, it’s kind of happening again, but in exoticism. There are entire videos on Youtube dedicated to this.3 And I agree, it’s not entirely the people’s fault.  It’s us trying to fit in again as well.


All this.  All this to bring me to the point as to why I’m wrong about subs, and why people would rather things get lost in translation.  I want subs because I want foreignization.  Foreignization is when things are purposely left in their cultural meaning to try and maintain what it was before.4  I want people to have to make an effort to be familiar and understanding to consume these things, not as gatekeeping, but as encouragement.  I said effort, not qualification.  

Foreignization is most commonly seen as transliteration in names.  An example is in Genshin, where some names are left as is: Xiangling, Liyue, Tatarasuna.  But games aren’t about making you learn new cultures.  I’m sorry.  That’s the truth.  Games are localized, and sometimes that’s a very good thing.  Bear with me here.  I always have a teddy bear or plush nearby.  But that phrase grouping would not have worked in another language, right?  Puns and wordplay just don’t work.  One of my favorite examples is in Genshin where Hu Tao’s ultimate is a phrase of “吃飽喝飽,一路走好!”, which is like “Eat well, drink well, journey well.”  But the cadence, rhythm, and wording is extremely difficult to combine in English, so in English she says, “Time to go!”  A lot of Hu Tao’s playfulness is lost in translation.  Although not the best used here, most people would use transcreation to maintain that feeling.

Transcreation is when new content is created in order to try and maintain the character, while localizing it so it still makes sense.  “In game localisation, the feeling of the original ‘gameplay experience’ needs to be preserved in the localised version so that all players share the same enjoyment regardless of their language of choice.”5  Sometimes that kind of content is needed.  It’s ultimately too complicated to leave content foreign.  People buy games to play the content to be enjoyed in the language they want.  

Oh yeah.  I forgot.

People buy games to play content.


Because in the end.  This is about consumerism.  Localization isn’t just here to maintain the experience, it’s to sell the game to their targeted language audience.  Unless the game is about teaching you about understanding cultural context or something, that’s not the point.  This is why no matter how much I would like people to watch Parasite in Korean, ultimately, as a movie people are there to watch a movie.  They’re not here to learn about the nuances of Korean speech.

I’m wrong because I want people to use these pieces of media as a springboard to guide them to new cultures and understandings.  And that’s just not what people do unless they already had that inclination to begin with.  There are developers who want cultural understanding and considerations of perspective, but if it’s not a fun enough game the only people who buy the game are the ones who already wanted understanding.  They’re preaching to the choir.

Can we change minds?  We can.  But we can only change minds by changing ideas of what is already being ignored.  Genshin’s presentation of Chinese opera was well received, but I don’t know if it changed any minds.  It brought to light a new style of opera that many people didn’t know about.  It simply didn’t exist yet, but that won’t change the minds of people who will act ethnocentric.  It won’t change people from recognizing privilege.  It just removes ignorance.

Interest for the sake of understanding is just not a good selling point.  And that’s why all of this doesn’t feel like it has changed as much as I’d have hoped.  People understand things and references more, but I feel like these are things thrown at the process of acceptance or denial for a person’s opinions.  It’s not something to make them question whether or not they’re acting with privilege.  

Globalization of products has changed things, but it’s not fast enough.  I met with someone making their own anime now.  They’re not Japanese, and that’s fine, but they’re also the same person that has some pretty negative, and I dare say colonialist, viewpoints of Japan, which is not fine.  In fact…that’s colonialism.  They took something from another country, made it theirs, and do not respect the origins of it.  

And…it almost doesn’t feel wrong, because the point of it is to sell products.  It’s to sell media.  I think I may have been using energy on this tide that pushes me back and sometimes I wonder if it’s worth it.  Some people in the gaming group are saying this is just the way it is.  They’re all white people from the United States.  Am I just trying to be a justice warrior?  Should I ignore it all?  It’s all about selling, so why should I care?  


…I feel like I keep standing on this soapbox and I’m sure most people tire of this, which makes sense.  Elise, why can’t you stop talking about this?  Why do you always bring this up?  Because every single day I have to deal with it, so it’s rather difficult to not have it on my mind.  

…maybe this whole Deep Dive stuff is just me ranting.  Ugh, I apologize.  I really do want people to see the nuances that are more than just senpai and memes.  I just want people to see that cultures are more than just memes and jokes.  Maybe that’s what I should’ve just said.  Hold on.

TLDR: I just want people to see that cultures are more than just memes and jokes.

Or maybe I just need new communities to talk to about games.  Too bad my communities are anonymous discord people.

Thanks for reading, and I PROMISE the next deep dive will not be about racism, colonialism, or ethnocentrism.6  It’ll just be about media.

Elise

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mX3obZ0lXoU
  2. Carlson, R., & Corliss, J. (2011). Imagined Commodities: Video Game Localization and Mythologies of Cultural Difference. Games and Culture, 6(1), 61–82. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412010377322
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNkZIJkXI6g
  4. Cai, Mengge. (2022). Translation of Culture-loaded Words and Cross-cultural Communication from the Perspective of Domestic Games. SHS Web of Conferences. 148. 10.1051/shsconf/202214801025. 
  5. Mangiron, Carme & O’Hagan, Minako. (2006). Game Localisation: Unleashing Imagination with ‘Restricted’ Translation. JOURNAL OF SPECIALISED TRANSLATION. 6. 
  6. Unless you want that.

Patch Notes Ver 2022.11.22

Quick updates

Hey guys, this is Patch Notes. Short updates on my life. I need to post this because I haven’t been very active lately. I’ve been dealing with some very difficult social stuff that has impacted my emotional and mental health pretty heavily.

United States’ Thanksgiving is also this week, so I’ll be busy with that, and I have a major art project that is due at the end of the month.

I hope you guys liked that long post that I did. The most recent one about discovering myself. I’m going to be doing more research focused posts that will be long, and a tiny bit more serious. Let me know if you enjoy them! However, I must let you know that these research posts take significantly more time and so they will be infrequent. I also will continue doing the normal stuff like “Why I Love” and other smaller stuff that are more personal and fun though.

I hope you’re all doing well and staying safe. Just wanted to let you know I’m not dead and what I’m working on.

Games I’m playing at the moment: Final Fantasy VIII (still, it was paused for spooky month), Warhammer 40,000: Darktide, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (also paused for spooky month)

More Complicated Than I Could Imagine

It’s all coming together.

Spoilers for: Genshin Impact, moderate, late game.

I think I finally figured it out.  My approach to video games.  “Oh no, Elise, not this again.”  Stop, wait!  For real this time!  I think I got it.  This is going to be a long post, because it’s…well, more complicated than I could imagine.  


I want to mention something about the beginning of this journey that I’ve been on in video games. Even previously through all of that I could not pinpoint exactly what I meant by all that I said.   I’ve talked about games that I played often, and I’ve talked about some of the political aspects of video games that affected me

In a terrible, incorrect, and biased way, I originally thought this was a difference in East vs West mindsets.  But that’s obviously not true. And let’s be honest, that’s a pretty racist way of me to think.  It was wrong.  However, it was not true in an unfortunate way.  The people that I interacted with that had stronger backgrounds from East Asia still had conflicts with the way I view video games.  Conflicts that drove me away.  More importantly, it’s about the way I approach them and how I can interact with other video gamers.  When a perspective you have comes in conflict with the way that you can interact with the general community, do you still feel like a part of it?


I then thought, it’s the spoilers.  It is me not wanting any spoilers. Studies do show that spoilers don’t really ruin it for most people.1  For most people.  I am, whether for good or not, one of those people.  It does however, matter where the spoilers are placed.  If they’re in the actual story itself apparently that really does affect it.  But if presented in advance, yeah it doesn’t matter for the majority of people.2

I hate spoilers.  I saw The Lord of the Rings movies last year in January.  But, man, if it wasn’t shrouded by the memes of today, I think it would’ve been even more epic.  Instead, there were some parts that were funny.  I don’t think it detracted from the experience of enjoyment.  I do like a good laugh, but something about it always stings looking back.  Maybe it’s…a feeling of missing out?  Missing out on a feeling I will never have the opportunity for again.

The thing about the feeling of missing out is the time we have to spend on catching up.  We’ve all played that game before whether it’s because of Netflix, a February in gaming, or an influx of new content from a convention’s announcements.  We have to catch up with the neighbor who has that new, cool blender.  If they have that blender it’s not going to change your experience.  In fact, when you watch them use that blender, you know for a fact your experience will be just as awesome and just as smoothie.  …I’m so sorry.

But catching up in media and entertainment is different than catching up to your neighbor’s appliances.  If you watch someone else watch a movie, assuming we’re not looking at the screen, that’s not the same thing as watching the movie itself.  Watching someone play through a game is more accurate to the blender theory, because you and the player are experiencing the game firsthand.  It’s like watching a movie with them.  But having someone tell you the experience is telling the game, film, or book in a way unintended by the creators.  I’m not here to watch the rugby game outside the stadium.  I’m here to watch the rugby game.

And that can be argued against as well.  But the point is from my perspective, it ruins it.  I want the original of what the creators intended or published.  And in the end that doesn’t even matter.  Why?  Because that’s not the problem with my perspective.  That isn’t it.  Although it is a bit because I feel like a nuisance when people can’t talk about what they want around me if they don’t want to spoil it.  Ultimately I don’t think that is what makes it so hard for me to get along with the video gaming community.  Obviously I appreciate when people spoiler tag things, because it means they’re being considerate, but there’s something one step further that I feel like I finally identified as the biggest chasm that separates me from the rest of the others.  It feels like I’m saying, “I’m not like other girls”.  I’m so sorry about that, but don’t worry just because I’m separated doesn’t mean I’m better or anything. 


I can’t be upset at characters.  At least not in the way I see other gamers do.  The characters are real people. I’m not asking people to think that way.  That’s ridiculous.  Some people find me treating them like real people ridiculous, and in some ways I feel like their perspective is justified.  But I don’t know what these characters are going through behind the scenes.  Literally, behind the cinema scenes.  I can’t be upset because Ayaka wore socks in Genshin Impact while she was standing in the stream in that one scene.  That means developers, real humans, would have to take more time changing the models.  Time that, if spent on something like that even if they wanted to, could be an inefficiency mark for them.  It might make them look like they’re not doing what they’re supposed to be doing.  It really depends on how loose the art director is.  It also depends on what Ayaka was thinking at the time.  Was it spontaneous?  Was she too nervous to think about it?  

If you look on YouTube you’ll find that a lot of people seem appreciative of the dance.  Even if this is a comment that is going to be plastered on the internet for however long, there are a lot of them.  But I’ve never run into someone who feels like this for most games.  In fact, I’ve never run into one in my Genshin community.  I get told that these people exist, and yeah, I see them right here on YouTube, but in every video game group that I join I feel none of that for different games.

Whenever I bring up that scene to the other Genshin players in my group, their first thing to bring up is making fun of her socks because she was wearing them while standing in the water.  But in the context of the story, I think it’s so graceful, genuine, and peaceful.  The dance, I mean.  The dance that she does for you.  The dance that she is apprehensive to show anyone else, but she shows it to you.  I don’t think I can look back on the experience and think, “Ha, she’s wearing socks in the water.”  I always think, “I am so grateful that she was willing to share that with me.”  Too cheesy?  But that’s just the thing.  Why does it sound like they have to make an excuse to recognize that part of the story?  “Oh yeah, I guess so.”  “But I mean…”  “Why didn’t they just…”  It goes on.

I don’t know.  I’m also not Ayaka.  Maybe one day the developers will update it so she takes off her socks one day.  I don’t know.  I’m not the developers.  I do know that in the culmination of all things technical from the developers, and all things ethereal, spiritual, and fantastical even, from Ayaka, I am grateful for that heartfelt moment she gave.

And that’s where the difference lies.  


When people approach and consume media, it’s a service.  I pay you, you entertain me.  But for me, I’m here to learn to respect this new world.  I’m not here as a VIP to be served, I’m here as a sociologist to learn what I can to understand.  This approach is the same I have for everyone in real life.  In cultures, societies, families, I am the visitor.  I am the guest.  I don’t touch things I shouldn’t touch.  I don’t do things I shouldn’t do.  Sometimes my beliefs may conflict, but in the context of things, I need to be willing to take a step back and realize, this is a different world.  And mayhap you think it silly, but it’s the same for video games.

So yeah, I do feel bad if you think someone in a game is stupid, because to me, they’re someone that’s real.  If a concept of lore is dumb, well, guess what?  Those characters have to live in that world.  And if you’re paying for the game as service, that game has failed you.  And it makes sense.  If you’re playing specific characters  just for the numbers to be bigger than anyone else’s, great.  If the reward isn’t good enough you’re not going to aid the village?  Elise, they’re not real.

Sorry, and in most people’s eyes, yes.  You’re totally, totally right.  The people in the pixels on my screen are not going to come to my aid when I am being mugged or I am in financial need.  My therapist says my approach is just that I’m being extremely considerate.  But does that make everyone else’s approach inconsiderate?

I don’t think so.

Sometimes respect isn’t a single road.  Sometimes it is.  And in this case I’m willing to bet that there is more than one road, I’m just not driving on it.  But when one version is wielded as a way to look down on another, that’s when it is a problem, not the perspective itself.  That’s another big mistake in thought I made. It’s not that other people with this technical or service based mindset are bad.  They’re not.  It’s when it is wielded against me that is the problem.  I am constantly feeling shut down in the communities because I feel they talk harshly about other people, and by people I mean the characters in a game.  But they don’t notice that.  It’s silly for me to think that.

It’s not that these people are rude.  At least I’m going to assume they’re not, unless the reason they don’t like a character is for something severe like racism.  It’s that the boundaries of this bubble of respect that I’ve created have become so inflated that in order to accept this perspective, that boundary is going to be rubbed the wrong way.  And the spoiler thing just feels like an echo of this that exacerbates that.


The problem with taking perspectives like these is that there are sacrifices to be made.  And even those sacrifices can be seen as problematic to those around you.  They think it facetious, stupid, or pretentious for taking it this far.  And in most cases I don’t blame them.  

People in the gaming community that I’m in are not rude.  They’re not wrong.  They’re not inconsiderate or disrespectful.  It’s just that they have a different view of things, and with the sacrifices I’ve made to have the perspective that I feel best provides the fun and appreciation for games, I have to accept that this is the result of that.  They’re going to be breaking those boundaries, and usually it’s not their fault, it’s mine, because I actually want this.  

I sincerely am grateful if you’ve actually read all of this.  It’s very likely that our perspectives on this differ.  Don’t make yourself feel bad if it’s not the same as mine.  Or don’t make me feel bad because of mine, trust me, I’ve gotten that my whole life.  I just want people to be introspective and realize that, excluding dangerous or inappropriate extremes that can harm other people, your perspective of video gaming is likely not wrong.  It just is, there are aspects of it that are very likely joyous to you, and sometimes it exists because of things within the realms of what is more complicated than we can imagine.  

And that’s okay. We’ll figure it out.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll see you next time.

Elise

  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0956797611417007
  2. https://www.livescience.com/53126-spoilers-can-ruin-movie-enjoyment.html#:~:text=Johnson%20was%20quick%20to%20add%20that%20the%20study,your%20experience%20with%20the%20story%2C%20the%20researchers%20learned

I’m Concerned for You VR

Do you want me to leave the door open or closed?

I’ve been thinking about this over the past year.  I’ve always been a bit concerned about VR.  Initially, I didn’t like VR.  I mean, the concept I absolutely love.  It’s a very typical gaming dream, but there are always a few things that always make me reconsider what VR is like for everyone.

I was always worried because I wear glasses, but that concern was easily thrown out the window since many devices’ official releases.  I’m not too worried about that now.  I was also worried about feeling sick from the movement, but that’s also a lesser concern now for me.  However, that’s not always a small concern for everyone else.  Some people will not be able to get over it very easily, and moreover some people may not even be able to control that.  It’s like how some people feel sick on airplanes or boats.  I don’t blame them for how their body reacts to such things.  I think that may be an oft forgotten concern that really does affect a few people.


The two biggest concerns I have though are the ones that are definitely more of an effect on people as a whole.  

The first thing is just plain access to VR.  I’ve seen VR arcades and shops that are entirely set up for VR.  It’s that expensive and unwieldy.  It’s like how most people in the world don’t build roller coasters in the backyard.  It’s something we pay to have someone host that.  And the fact that we can have that for VR is telling.  However, the same can be said for arcades, but that is a symptom of how gaming was in the retro days.  It’s very possible that the VRcades…if that is what we’re calling them, are for a similar reason, but I can’t help but think it’s also because it’s just plain expensive.  Most VR headsets also require a good computer to play them, and that’s not necessarily as accessible, or perhaps even realized by those who purchase it.  Thanks to alternatives though, like PSVR, it should be easier for some.  

Safety is a part of this concern as well, as that is access that is not easy to create.  Unless you’re willing to move some furniture every time, having a safe space to play VR could be annoying.  If you don’t live in a large house and live in a dense city area in places like Taiwan or Japan where the rooms are not big, VR can be troubling.  It’s similar to how when the Xbox Kinect came out, it was a hassle to play in a small room.  The same can be said for Wiimotes, but with VR you literally can’t see where you are in the room so that is even more dangerous. 

I feel like these can be financial blocks for some people.  Blocks that are not easily affordable.  We can’t just knock down some walls and say we can use VR now.  (Well, I guess we could but that’s a whole different thing going on there.)  And some places like New York City or a tiny flat in England just aren’t fit for good VR.  There better be pillows and stuff all around because with my luck I will fall on like, the sharp edge of a table.  Ouch.


The second and even greater concern I’ve had for VR ever since its inception is physical accessibility.  I’ve already talked about motion sickness.  That belongs in this category.  Other things like physical disabilities will make VR impossible for them.  We’ve already come a long way with things like the Xbox Adaptive Controller and groups like GameBlast that I’m very happy to see pointed out by gamers.  

With VR I feel like these are further steps away for those gamers to have to reach for.  It’s possible for a few cases for it to actually be easier for those with physical disabilities to use VR, but I’m sure there are a good amount that feel even more restricted.  Some games that are exclusive to VR are now out of reach for those players.   Imagine playing through Half-Life and then stopping at Half-Life: Alyx because of your physical disabilities.  That’s not fun.  Although there is a conversion mod for that, the reality is that the VR experience is just inaccessible for those gamers.


I’m not saying that we aren’t allowed to enjoy VR for those of us that can, but it’s just something that I think about for my friends that are limited in what they’re allowed to play.  It’s already difficult for me when I have friends that can’t play because motion sickness is a thing, even after we’ve adjusted the field of view and effects as much as we can.  It’s heartbreaking when something that may be even more severe like a disability further dampens their ability to enjoy things like games.  I’m always grateful to see things like colorblind correction, subtitles, and even things like Bayonetta’s family friendly mode to make sure that we’re allowed to play what we want when we want.  I just feel like VR is going to be an even tougher mountain to climb for those who already cannot.

I’m extremely grateful that we can enjoy video games.  If I really do enjoy games as much as I say I do, I feel it is only right for me to want that joy to be passed on to as many people as possible.  

Thanks for reading.  I’ll see you next time.

Elise

Why I Love: Resident Evil 4

Conquer the darkness

Okay, I think for most people who play horror games, Resident Evil 4 is not really that scary.  But it’s scary enough to be called a horror game.  I think some people consider Bioshock to be a horror game, but I wasn’t ever really scared in that for some reason.  …maybe.

I get really scared in games.  Super easily scared.  (I know, Bioshock does have some scary moments.)  But like, this is how scared I was: I couldn’t get past, like, the first few cabin areas at the literal start of the game.  I think the biggest problem for me in horror games is anticipation.  I always think it’s going to be way scarier than it’s actually going to be.  My imagination goes wild and it’s never even close to what the actual scary thing is.  But that’s good.  I like games that create an environment that really scares me.

What really brings it up technically are two things which I was totally not expecting:

Inventory Management

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but this made me really grateful for inventory management.  I’ve already played things like the Deus Ex series that has this, but for some reason Resident Evil 4 really helped me realize how much I do enjoy resource management.  I do like not having enough ammo at times.  Making difficult decisions with what I have in the inventory turned out to be really fun!  It makes it feel rewarding and risky, and for some reason I never really recognized that.  I probably felt it in Deus Ex, but I only realized it for what it was here, and looking at the time this game was released, it probably was the same for others as well.

Oh wait, I played Resident Evil 1.   And that was a nightmare.  Pun intended.

For me, it was Resident Evil 4.  It feels rewarding when I save something for later and it turns out to be useful, and it feels like there are consequences if I hoard and it turns out to be detrimental.  I like it.   Resident Evil 1 was a little too punishing in inventory management for me.

Gunplay

This is probably…the best third person gunplay I’ve had.  It feels so good.  It really feels like I’m aiming the gun.  I mean, obviously that’s what we do in shooting games, but it feels so natural here.  When I initially saw it for what it was, again I was really doubtful.  I was like, “This is not going to be great.”  But…every time I had an encounter and I had to shoot, it was fun.  Um…it’s really…it.  That’s it.  

———————

For me, this was also a turning point where horror games changed.  I became more willing to play them.  Which is good, because there are so many horror games that I want to play for the story, but still want to experience the original form of the game.  It’s because of Resident Evil 4 that I played Alan Wake, and then continued on with other horror games.  

Emotionally I really like Resident Evil 4 because I love the characters in it.  I love that Leon doesn’t really care about people being flirty or romantic with him.  He just brushes it off.  I really like that a lot.  I hate forced romance or obvious push for romance.  I like that allied NPCs don’t feel stupid.  And it’s interesting that the graphics still somehow hold up today. Which is kind of weird.

These things in Resident Evil 4 are present in other games, but I think the little nuances of a lot of eastern style approach to storytelling, character design, and enemy design really attract me.  I admit it.  This isn’t to say that western versions of the same are bad, they’re just different, and for the most part each does not have entire exclusivity. Again, there’s some cheesiness in all games, but there’s something both endearing and paradoxically profound about the way it is done in Resident Evil 4.  Most of the people throw it off as only cheesiness and maybe even cringiness.  I don’t know, because my approach to media is different.  I don’t see things like anime as cringy (I mean, unless it’s legitimate like, cringe).  I think it’s partially the culture I grew up in, but it’s also just…I don’t know.  I honestly haven’t found why this happens or where it comes from.

I think part of it is my whole view of treating these worlds and characters with a certain reality and respect.  I see them as people, even if their worlds have some cheese in it or are super fantastical, and they’re still people and worlds with backgrounds unbeknownst to me.  There will be bad parts and characters, this we know for sure, but for the most part I want to respect the strangers I meet here.  It’s more likely that I’m a guest in their world that doesn’t know enough, than for me to be arrogant to judge them with a personal ideal.

I wanted to see what I would write for a Why l Love for a game that has a greater emotional tie, and I don’t know if it was any good.  Heh.  But I would like to thank you for reading.  
Thanks for your support!  I hope you’re having a wonderful spooky season.  Stay safe, but don’t forget to enjoy the wonderful mise-en-scène of Halloween!

Elise

Yes. I’m totally going to get the remake.