Gaming Identity

Master of None

I’m usually trying to find a set arc of things to write about in every article, but this is also a personal “blog”, if I can call it that.  A lot of things here are based off of personal experience and opinions, but at the same time I want it to be worth reading and fun to read.

Sometimes I lament my lack of skill level in video games.  Granted, I think I am better than a casual player.  I think I am a little bit better than the average?  And yet, place anyone who has even the slightest bit more focus on a game or type of game that they like and I can assure you they will be better than me.  As I got older in high school I thought a lot about what makes my pride and identity as a video gamer important to me. The more I think about this, the more I realize there are certain things I want to be  part of me as a gamer, and some that I really don’t care about.

Socially, I used to be upset that I wasn’t as good as other gamers, but personally, why did that matter?  The joy people get from their competitive spirit is nothing bad, but to define myself and my value through someone else’s lens just wasn’t working out for me.  I think there are three main things I tend to focus and work on as a video gamer.


I value the history, diversity, and humanity in video games.  This is one of the driving forces behind me playing games that are perhaps more mediocre than others.  I want to see what makes games that aren’t the best still likable.  I want to see a development team improve over time.  I want to see the struggles of trying to make good game design decisions.  I love the stories of Iwata Satoru as he grew Nintendo, or the struggle of Eric Barone as he created Stardew Valley.  All of this included, I think I value my versatility and diversity in the games I play.

In terms of piracy, I am always on the front of anti-piracy, not for the sake of capitalism, but for the sake of morality and humanity.  Which is also why if it takes piracy to preserve history, I don’t necessarily discourage that side.  I think it is the moral responsibility for developers to preserve their games and the games’ history, and if they do not it may be up to the players.  This is the history side of my values.

Games that show humanity in their storylines and the poking at our lives to become better people are also very enjoyable.  Games don’t have to be deep to be good, but some games can be good because they are deep.  Undertale and some of the quests in Genshin Impact that really push what it means to be human and how we can improve are so valuable to me.  My siblings and I often poke at anime because they tend to hit the hardest notes in what makes us human.  I love the struggle between the self and what is right in Path of Exile’s implied lore.  “We see ourselves reflected in those facets, twisted beyond recognition.”  It remarks how people do not become mad in a single moment, but it is almost always a string of events unnoticed by those outside the mind.  And sometimes how certain things in their simplicity are what makes them impact how we feel and think, like in Alan Wake. I wrote an article about that.

I value the spread of knowledge that is good.  The only thing in the media industry I enjoy more than consuming is teaching about it.  I love talking about game design and helping new gamers find their place in the field.  I want them to discover what games really drive them to play.  Few things are as enjoyable as seeing a new gamer find out that they really love in a series or seeing their skill levels improve as they put in their efforts to be better at a game.  

I love seeing games as a diving board to raise interest in things.  I love studying, so learning new skills like lockpicking because of its universality in video games has been great.  Although, I’m still not as good as I’d like to be, trust me.  Learning about how politics and misuse affect the everyday lives of people in Deus Ex and relating that to real life.  Or other pokes like racism and refugee crises in Guild Wars 2.  To learn and see from outside my mind is good knowledge from video games.  

And bringing it back around, just people learning about the lore of worlds outside our own.  That excitement, the fandoms, the burning passion of it all.  These things are good knowledge because it brings people together and we carry joy together.  Just lore of games themselves, even if not as useful in real life, that is good knowledge that I love immensely.  

I value the relationship between myself and games.  This has been kind of talked about in my Breaking the Fourth Window article.  I value how games change how I treat others in positive ways.  Understanding communication and how to better be myself around others.  Setting boundaries and respecting boundaries.  I am not a social person, so all of this is a good thing.  I value how I feel about the characters and the worlds in these games.  When people cry over a beloved character’s death, and moreover why they were close to them in the first place.  Was it because they had a friend similar to them?  Was it because we loved or hated a similar situation?  Is it trauma?  …was it because they were hot?  Okay, that last one is not really something I could personally relate to, but to each their own in their video game relationships.

I think some people categorize my relationship with the game worlds as nearly as dangerous as what some…unhealthy fandoms do with characters, but I don’t relate to them in the same way.    It is a bond to strengthen my values and ties to everything around me.  I want to be with the hurt and misunderstood in games, to “talk” with them and interact and think about how I feel.  It has helped me relate to those who have been hurt in real life.  It is not that any of these relationships in our outside video games are fake, rather it is that they all uplift each other.  And in one full circle going back to my first point, it helps me become more human.


Is this all a bit cheese?  Maybe.  Does it feel a bit preachy?  Kinda.  But all in all, it’s what I pride myself in playing video games to be.  I think a lot of the reasons I play are for uplifting me and those around me.  I want to help people be more human, or even just have good fun.  Sorry if these rather personal posts are not as exciting as my other posts, but I just hope that we all have positive growth in ourselves by playing video games.  I want to prove that there is so much more to video games than just violently shooting at demons.    …although, that is fun too.

Stay safe, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Elise

Thoughts on Back 4 Blood: Tunnels of Terror

Contains Both Tunnels and Terror

Well, what I wrote in the subtitle explains it all.  The end.

Just kidding.  I’ve been playing Back 4 Blood since…December, I think.  And like similar intense co-op games like this, we blasted through it in like three days.  It was fun, and then that was it.  Back 4 Blood also brings with it unlockable things to keep me coming back: Cards can be unlocked.  You use the cards to make decks and you draw those cards as you play through the levels.  The cards are always in the order you set them in the deck to be, so that’s nice.  It makes playthroughs a little different every time.  You can also unlock skins.  If you know me, I’m definitely a girl who really likes making her characters look the way she wants them to.  And then there are weapon skins, which I also am a great fan of.

The characters are pretty likable..  The variance in their lines is not as diverse as Left 4 Blood, but they’re still fun to hear.  I admit it took me a little bit to like the characters, but by the end of the Recruit difficulty it was all good.  Oh, that’s right.  Then we worked our way through Veteran difficulty with only two players, because by that time most of the group stopped playing.  And then we tried Nightmare and we got slaughtered.  The most recent update made it a little easier, but we still get slaughtered and I am just not going to play with randos.

Alright, let’s get to Tunnels of Terror.

Is it worth it?  Kinda?  Let’s talk about the different things and then you can determine for yourself, because we likely have different interests.

Tunnels/Hives:

So you can go into Ridden Hives that randomly spawn in the levels.  And these hives are actual entire levels you get to play in.  The way they’re attached to the main campaign instead of their own levels reminds me a lot of Path of Exile’s content additions.  And I love that.  I love it in Path of Exile because they keep adding more stuff and that means more chaos and unexpected occurrences.  I love that kind of chaos.  But that also means you will not be choosing hives as levels to play through.  Even when you’re playing through the campaign, they’re not guaranteed to spawn.  …at least from what I’ve seen.

The hives themselves are really fun to play.  Even though their designs are mostly just slimy tunnels, there’s something about venturing through them that makes the gameplay of them really fun, if not better than most of the levels in the campaign.  Sometimes they’re fairly straight forward, and other times they feel like mazes.  In both senses they have been really fun for me and my ally to play in.  We love them.  While in these hives you can open warped chests which drop a bunch of good loot at the expense of some negative effect like everyone in the team taking trauma damage after opening it.  Which leads me to…

Legendary Weapons:

You can find these in warped chests.  I love the legendary weapons.  They are exactly what I want from such things: unique look, flavor text, and some fancy effect.  These are unmoddable weapons that do special effects like adding burning damage to an AA-12 while giving the wielder immunity to fire damage.  I like to open warped chests just to try and find these weapons, because they’re so fun to use.  They’re a very refreshing effect to the usual guns we wield.  You can also find unique, named mods that have crazy effects like 100% recoil reduction, but lose a ton of movement speed while shooting.  Those are also really fun and great.  Also in the hives we can find…

Skull Totems/Skins:

To be clear, skull totems are not skins, but they’re related to them.  In hives you can find up to three skull totems.  They’re a melee weapon that you have to actively hold.  Switching to any other item will make you drop the totem.  Each totem can be combined with the next to make it stronger (and slower in attack speed).  This allows for convenient travel with multiple totems, uh, in one totem!  That way only one person needs to carry it if need be.  If you’re using a melee build, these skull totems are great!  If you’re not, they’re not great!  It’s annoying to have to drop it just to switch to a ranged weapon if there are sleepers on the walls, and then pick them back up again.  But if you manage to escape the hive with the skull totems, you can spend them at the convoy to get other unlockables.  Like skins!

The new outfits are great, but there are not that many new skins.  I honestly expected a little more out of something they deemed an “expansion”.  The character skins are fun, but it’s the weapon skins that I’m kind of disappointed in.  Most of them are the same style on every gun.  A new biohazard skin?  A ton of them have that same yellow-black styling.  A new hot rod skin?  It’s on a lot of them as well.  None of the skins are unique to any type of gun, and I don’t really like that.  I like it when the skins are unique to the guns.  I don’t mind if there are a few repeats, like in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, but when it’s always repeated, it doesn’t feel great.  It’s just a mixed bag for me on this one. 

Some of the new talents and cards and stuff are really great though.  I’ve yet to be disappointed in the cards.  Some can seem kind of plain, but are still important for creating variety in decks, and I’m very okay with that.

Characters:

I’m glad there is another Asian.  I’m super biased about that, but I’m glad.  Heng is a new cleaner who has more utility in accessory items.  There usually isn’t a huge feeling of difference between characters in Back 4 Blood.  Even with other characters abilities and damage buffs, to be honest they tend to feel mostly the same.  I’m honestly okay with that, but so far Heng is just another cleaner to play as.  If you like to combo accessory effects though, he’s definitely someone to try out.  I like trying to make items be reusable or drop/spawn as frequently as possible and he’s just the person for that.

However, Sharice makes the game feel very different.  Sharice makes it so armor plates can be found in the maps.  Armor plates will take a heavy hit for you, and you can equip multiple.  Shooting off armor from enemies will also have a chance of dropping armor plates.  These things can make a huge difference.  Just imagine having any of the accessory items not spawn because one of the team members isn’t using a character.  I mean, that’s how big of a deal she is.  Well, quite literally, that’s the difference.  She also gives increased max temp health for the team, which is also really nice if you like gulping down meds or are using cards to get temp health.

Mutations and Monsters:

The new variations of ridden are really fun to play with.  The tallboy variant Ripper can slam the ground and send spikes through the ground as it does so, making it a ranged tank.  The reeker variant is the Shredder, which pulls people towards it.  Instead of bursting in gross goo, the Shredder’s head just pops and just kinda spews it out in a small area of effect near it.  The stinger variant is the Urchin, which shoots spiky mines.  

Parting Words:

As a last note, only one player needs Tunnels of Terror for everyone to experience hives.  Skull totems and their associated skins can be earned even if you don’t have the expansion.  Characters can be unlocked in PvP by playing PvP, but to use them in PvE you need to have the expansion.  The expansion by itself is $14.99 right now.  If it’s just the hive content you’re wanting to play, it’s not a bad price for the content for a party.  I’m still pretty mixed about how I feel about the package as a whole, but I will not deny that I enjoy my time with Back 4 Blood and the new content is a welcome experience. 

With most co-op games, how fun it is really depends on who you’re playing with, and even though there is only one other person in my party left, we have a really good time with the game.  I hope there can be more improvements at the next expansion.  

I don’t really give number ratings for games, but that was my experience.  Some people express their concern that I am fairly positive about everything in games, but this does not make this thought process for naught.  I’m sure there are things about the game that I said that you might think, “Oh, I don’t really like that,” or maybe, “I don’t think this is enough content for me.”  And if any of my words help clarify any of those thoughts, then I believe myself to have succeeded.  I just want you all to be able to find the fun in games wherever you can, and if you can’t find it here in the Tunnels of Terror expansion, that’s okay!

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you next time~

Elise

The Big DLC

The Great Paywall

Sometimes I think about gaming and how expensive it is.  Although it’s not necessarily required to get a gaming computer because there are plenty of good low-end PC games that are super fun, usually gamers will get a gaming device.  That could be a used 3DS for like $200 or less.  Or it could be something more expensive like a Playstation 5 for like, $500 (or more unfortunately).  Or it is a gaming computer for $900+.  And then you gotta buy the games.  And deal with the pains of learning accessories and whatnot.

And it can get expensive…most of the time.  There are so many good, free to play, major games like Path of Exile, Guild Wars 2, Starcraft II, Warframe, all of the free battle royales, and many more.  And then there are giveaways all the dang time.  Epic Store has been giving away major games every week for the past like, I don’t even remember anymore.  Two years?  So maybe getting the games part isn’t expensive.  There is, however, the major and valid hurdle of what kind of games you like.  So I’ll have to leave that up to you and the availability of games that you like.

So what is this big DLC I’m talking about then?  I’m talking about life.

Life has the most DLC out of any game.  You think about other hobbies that involve standard real life applications, and you are going to be spending cash on every single little thing.  Need a small part for your car you’re working on?  DLC.  Need to get some more paint to replenish your “mana”, by which I mean your oil paints for your canvas?  Pay to win.  Want to travel?  Dang, you’re gonna be paying hundreds of dollars, and you don’t even get the DLC permanently, because you’ll be back home.  I hate to say it, but games have very little DLC compared to standard hobbies.

The difference is that most of the time you can apply those other hobbies to being “productive”.  Everything is seen as more productive than playing video games.  Let’s be honest, the stereotype that gamers are trolls in the basement is still a thing.  Unless you’re rich, attractive, or famous.  Apparently they get a pass.

Maybe it’s about getting our money’s worth?  Learning how to cook a new recipe always costs a lot, but it always comes with the bonuses of eating good food, sharing with family and friends, and upping your cooking skill.  I’m not hating on games or anything.  Come on, this is Game Praisers.  But the weird thing is that game DLC is both really great and not great at the same time.  My new adventures in the snow for Monster Hunter don’t teach me anything about survival in the snow, but I get to go to lands I never would see in real life.

I guess what I’m trying to say is, I am so grateful for media.  I am grateful for content.  Because this huge world that pummels us with unwarranted updates like Covid and hate is also the same one that demands us pay for DLC whether we want it or not.  Let’s be real, that’s a low standard to be pitting video games against.  That’s even lower than comparing gaming to other hobbies and their expenses and rewards.  But… I’m at least grateful for it.  

Rarely would I get free food just because, like I can do on Epic Games.  Never could I travel so easily to foreign lands and learn cool lore.  Never could I have met friends as a cool engineer character I’m totally not like in real life other than personality.  And also, rarely could I do the same in reverse.  I’m so glad I bought those ingredients to make a cool recipe in real life to make for my family.  I’m so grateful that the darn cleaning product worked in the bathroom when I cleaned it again.  

I’m so grateful for content in both worlds.  

…but sometimes it still gets so darn expensive.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll see you again soon.

Elise

Breaking The Fourth Window

SPOILERS FOR VARIOUS GAMES AHEAD

Note: This is a little bit rant-ish.

I have a very hard time with fourth wall breaking moments in games.  Sometimes it’s uncomfortable, but that’s not the reason why it bothers me.  It really bothers me because it’s almost always assumed to be a “Hi, I got you there, didn’t I?”  in a world where…you’re not allowed to be…not gotten.


I developed a thought pattern in my younger years that was meant to discipline myself into doing the right thing whether or not someone is looking.  That was the goal.  The goal is to become a better person.  And this eventually passed down to my games and my art.  I never treat characters as characters, I always treat them like people.  Does this mean some of my decisions in choice based games are boring?  Yes, I think more often than not it does end up being like that, because I care about how they feel and how I feel about them.  

Sometimes there are choices that have minimal consequence other than getting a rise out of someone or a joke.  And yet, I still refuse to make those jokes.  I’m looking at you Traveler from Genshin Impact.  I’m fairly consistent in that I want the choices I make in games to be as close to the good choices I can make in real life.

I’ve lost so many lives trying to see if I could save someone that did not have a trigger to save them. I’ve lost so many rounds and lives in games because I felt I had to go back to save the AI ally.  In real life, if we’re just talking about real life, this would’ve literally been a waste of time.  There would be so little consequence if I just finished the level without them.   So when times appear that it turns out I could save them and I just assumed the game wouldn’t let me, I feel cheated.   When a character comes along and does the fourth wall breaking thing in a game, I actually feel cheated, because in games, you’re not always allowed to do the right thing.


Sometimes doing the right thing is much more difficult.  In Assassin’s Creed: Origins there were many assassination targets I wanted to leave alive, and yet no matter how hard I tried, they would still end up somehow dying due to a cutscene or force.  I put forth extra effort, only to be punished by the system.

Oppositely, when a game like Undertale comes along where I realized I could just be nice to all the enemies, I did that.  Except…at the last battle where you have to bring Asgore to low health.  I refused to even attack.  I spent hours and hours trying to figure out what I did wrong and why I couldn’t get past him.  I can’t tell you how many times he nodded, noting that we have fought a billion times with me dying.  After spending so darn long on it, I decided to give in and look up what I had to do.  I had to hit him, and once again I felt punished for trying to execute my “thinking outside the box” fourth wall-ism that these games try to employ.

It doesn’t matter if I follow the rules where games don’t let you do much, or do my best to be my best regardless of those rules, I will be punished by the choice-based games.  I never felt like the argument of “getting caught off guard” by a game’s fourth wall breaking to be valid because I am almost always punished for my choices either way.  What’s the point of getting “caught off guard” if the consequence is the same?

It used to be naivete, but after counseling and therapy, I understand better my relationship with these characters in video games.   It’s not okay to make fun of them just because they’re in a game or that they can’t see me.  Just like how I strive myself to not be like that or talk badly of other people behind their backs.  But what about the discomfort I feel?  


I’m not saying I’m immune to the feeling of fear and juxtaposition when a character, especially those with ill intentions, notices me as a player.  I’m scared of a lot of things, haha, and that is definitely not an exception.  But I also feel terribly shaken because I’m sad.

I’m sad that this character, even if they’re doing something wrong, has to resort to breaking into another world just to feel better about themselves.  I feel sad that I could not provide more for them.  I feel sad that I have to let them make their own choices, and even perhaps that some are programmed to be something they’d rather not want to be.  I feel sad that Monika in Doki Doki Literature Club had to resort to such extremes to feel comfort.  I feel sad that the evil characters in Undertale feel like their life disasters justified them to make those wrong choices.  All those characters that had to make a choice between bad or worse because of what choices I made or the things I had to do in a game affect me. If the roles were reversed, I wouldn’t blame the player, but I’d at least want them to know how I feel.

I feel bad because I have gone through the same forks in the road in life and I understand those justifications.  I’m sure, or rather I at least hope, that you as a reader also understand the difference between being bitter or better from life’s trials.  Sometimes in our anger and with unwanted results choosing to stay strong is difficult and the other route totally seems justified.  Sometimes I feel like it’s justified because the creators of their world didn’t inform visitor’s like me that I could even do things that could help them out.  

I know these characters are programmed a certain way.  

These feelings don’t make the wrong things these characters have done the right thing, but it does make them understood, and only through understanding can these people have any chance of getting better.  

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


– Yes, I know.  People always tell me that I waste so much time and am a dork for doing things like this, but I really want what’s best for the characters even outside of this whole meta of games.  And yes, like an emotionally and psychologically healthy relationship with anyone, I do set boundaries with characters. I’ll be okay.

2021.

Note: This is a really long round up, just so you’re aware.

This year I decided to go with a theme on what games I will be playing from the backlog, and it was Assassin’s Creed. I’m not sure why I chose Assassin’s Creed because if you know me you know I am usually peeved with Ubisoft’s cookie cutter design. And of course, their little thing in the beginning that says their team is “diverse” seems like a cheap way to try not to take responsibility of the problems that are still going on over there.

Regardless of all that, the journey through all the main Assassin’s Creeds games was an interesting one, because I get to see what they improved on, as well as what they didn’t really learn from. Currently, the latest one I have completed is Assassin’s Creed Unity.

The Lows of Assassin’s Creed

One of the low points is something that I’m sure all Assassin’s Creed players know about, climbing, I am lucky in the reasoning that I am playing these games after many glitches have been fixed, so climbing was relatively unglitched, but the system of climbing itself is really frustrating. Always jumping where I don’t want to, or being unable to grab that darn ledge diagonally even though it is RIGHT THERE. Randomly climbing when I did not intend to do so, especially while I’m chasing someone or in the middle of a fight. Those kinds of things were quite irritating. This frustration was slightly ameliorated by the changed climb up or down prompts introduced in Unity.

Another bad thing is stealth. Ironically, this is a huge thing for Assassin’s Creed, but I mean the stealth play after you have been found. Good stealth games provide enjoyable gameplay after you’ve been spotted or recognized. Either that, or they might as well just straightway cut you off from the mission. This is not really something that Assassin’s Creed handles well (so far). Too many times if I get spotted, I can still go on, but instead of some cool escape, I am sent dozens of guards that overwhelm and I can only watch myself be slain. I can run and hide of course, but the climbing system frequently gets in the way a great escape. While there have been times that I was able to make a dazzling escape with my tools and climbing, they are far exceeded by the times I’ve been foiled by unwanted jumps, falls, or unusually sharp AI. I definitely make my own mistakes and they can be the reason for my demise, but it should be pretty obvious when I want to grab a ledge to my side, I want the ledge to my side, not the one below. I know you can grab it, Ezio, and that’s what makes it really frustrating.

Ubisoft tends to do this typical thing where they tell you to do something, and sometimes when you do it, you fail. If you display yourself as an open world, the player should be able to expect to make their own way around things. Another unfortunate happening is trying to do those things, and…being told you’ve failed. Chasing enemies, but not being able to cut them off by taking shortcuts in the open world city that you’ve become accustomed to because you know it better now, and then being desynchronized, which is pretty much failing the mission in the series, is not a very pretty thing to see all the time. (That…was a sentence.) It is common in Ubisoft open world games to fail because you’re trying to be creative in it and it is still a thing in Assassin’s Creed. Some of the newer Far Cry games are bit better at this though, but there are some definite and unique problems for those as well.

The friggin’ unconventional storyline. It’s possible to have a good, unconventional story, but I’ve found it to be way more bothersome here than needed. It was alright in the beginning, but it got more and more convoluted and flipped inside out on itself. It could’ve been a simpler thing about an eternal war between Templars and Assassins, but they bring up this semi-futuristic world and how it connects with that war and it gets so out of hand. The story about Templars vs. Assassins itself is quite alright, it’s just the weird disconnection every time you are removed from that that doesn’t feel okay. In Assassin’s Creed Unity, they kind of get out of your hair mostly in that, so that was nice.

“True ending” if you spend 1,000 of your life’s hours. These should not be a thing. There can be true endings by choosing different choices, but don’t make a true ending because you didn’t collect every speck of your parent’s dead ashes.

Menus in menus in menus. Map icons. Reward-based collectathons. Everywhere.

The Highs of Assassin’s Creed

Okay, let’s talk about the good stuff. Climbing. BUT ELISE– I know. I know what I said. I’m saying climbing again here because I think it’s rather impressive that they’ve been able to make a system that allows you to climb on pretty much every single ledge in the game. Even though it can be pretty wonky at times, we weren’t able to have something this versatile until The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I’m sure a random reader could point out another as well, but they’re still pretty scarce. So, I still commend them on this.

Your tools and abilities are pretty fun. I like using firecracker distractions and smoke bombs. All the classic sneaky stuff all play out pretty well. Ranged weapons are mostly okay. Most of them are super satisfying, but they’re fairly limited because we should be using melee like an honorary assassin. (I mean, it’s not really like that, but still.)

I do like being able to visit different time periods and locations. If you’re like me, history becomes very muddled about 100 AD to 1800 AD. Playing through all the different times in between those two ages helped me learn a lot. I know some of the stuff is in just for gameplay or aesthetics, but it also raised interest in those time periods for researching myself: something that is highly valued here at Game Praisers.

Ship sailing. There are only two Assassin’s Creed games that have won any sort of personal awards for me. The first Assassin’s Creed earned an Honorable Mention because of it’s breakthrough and impact it made. The second Honorable Mention is Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. The ship sailing gameplay is actually really fun. It was quite refreshing to go through and sometimes that’s all I really wanted to do. This makes sense, as Ubisoft is supposedly also making Skull & Bones, which is Assassin’s Creed but mostly, if not all, sailing. I mean, if they ever finish that. Assassin’s Creed Rogue also was a sailing game in a similar vein, but I liked Black Flag more overall concerning story and characters. Also, by the time I finished Rogue I was pretty seasick. Still fun though.

In conclusion, this journey has been great to see how a company has and has not changed over time, and I think there is value in being able to see that. However, I would not personally recommend doing this unless you actually, really, really want to do this. I like doing stuff like this, and I would not want anyone to do this out of obligation or anything. I will continue my journey through Assassin’s Creed next year simply because I tend not to quit on my plans.


But that’s not all I played this year. I played filler games to make sure I didn’t die of monotony.

Time for the list of games that deserve mention, in order of when I completed them.

Crysis: Warhead and Crysis 2

More Crysis! These two games were really enjoyable, but I really loved Crysis: Warhead because it was literally more of the first game. The new weapons introduced were really fun. Crysis 2 was also pretty good, but it for all the changes it made, it didn’t feel super amazing. It’s still a good game though that is fun. Crysis: Warhead earns an Honorable Mention.

Yoshi’s New Island

The underrated Yoshi game. I love the visuals, but I can understand where the low ratings are coming from. It all feels very simple, but what I love is that it still carries the Yoshi’s Island feeling from the SNES. This game earns an Honorable Mention. Admittedly it’s because of more of an emotional thing.

Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2

It took me this long to get to Halo. This is what happens when you like too wide of a net of things in life. Both of these games get an Honorable Mention. The first game gets it because of the cultural wave it brought with it. I remember people downloading the demo on school computers and playing them secretly, or even not secretly with the teachers. Honestly though, it doesn’t hold up well, especially the campaign.

Halo 2 was where multiplayer got really crazy and I remember all those LAN parties. Oof. That was insane, but the campaign is much better and more interesting. It feels more than a thing attached because they wanted a platform for multiplayer. This game gets the Honorable Mention also because it’s better overall as a game, not just emotinally.

Celeste 2 and RAYKA

Two really tiny games that came out this year. Both of them great in their concepts. Celeste 2 is a mini Celeste game just like the original started. Who knows…maybe something will come of this. Just kidding, I think they’re working on other stuff right now. But just as enjoyable as the other Celeste games. RAYKA is one of those concepts that only work because it’s a small studio and has very little red tape in the way. It’s a first person shooter that kind of reminds me of Game Boy Advance style FPS games. However, there’s not too much I should give away because that’s part of the fun of it.

You can play Celeste 2 here and RAYKA here. UNFORTUNATELY, because of something…in the game, there are spoilers for all the fun right at the page for RAYKA. But… ..oh well. They both receive Honorable Mentions, but nothing more because, like a certain frog, they’re too darn short.

Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition

…I already wrote an entire article about it. It’s a lot to explain, but in the end, great game. Not overrated. Some games deserve the praise and this is one of them. This game made the 12 Bests list and is currently #89 on the ULTRA.

Deus Ex: Mankind Divided

I have a fear of finishing series. If I get to the last one I have, or that is released, I hesitate to play them. But I finally got off my butt and played the last Deus Ex game that is available at the moment. This is the Game of the Year for me. I feel like it improved nearly everything that needed to be improved. Just when it felt like it might get tedious, it moved on. Great pacing, atmosphere, everything. Also Adam’s voice is still so great. The small, but hand-crafted and concentrated, open world feels really great and not too overwhelming. This game now sits at #5 on the ULTRA. Also…finally a Deus Ex game I feel like is better than the very first one in the series, nostalgia goggles and all.

Mortal Kombat X

A fighting game that doesn’t beat me to death on “medium” difficult. But enough to have fun and get better at. This is such a good game and I can see why people loved it when it came out. This is especially significant after Mortal Kombat (2011). This game is #169 on the ULTRA.

Quantum Break and Control

These games. I love them so much. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’ve been following Remedy since Max Payne now and I’ve seen their growth. I love the cinematic feel in Quantum Break. I love the Shawn Ashmore and the other actors. This is one of the few pieces of media that I think handles time travel really well. In fact, I use this game as an example of an ideal time travel design for story. This is #81 on the ULTRA.

Control. I am so biased. I can’t rate this game properly. I started playing this game during a difficult time in my life and it helped me a lot. I love the environment style and the lore. I melt at everything in this. The only thing that got to me is the Alerts. I thought there were like, side quests, but they’re just extra stuff to do if you want to kill things for rewards. So I got overwhelmed by them until I realized they weren’t side quests. The shooting feels great, movement feels great, characters super awesome. I sound like a kid. I’d go into more depth with these games that are on the ULTRA, but they deserve an article themselves, so I won’t go any further. Control is #6 on the ULTRA. I know the ULTRA is supposed to include emotional bias, but Deus Ex still comes out on top.

Hyper Light Drifter

This game is so cute, especially because it does the ol’ show, don’t tell. For the entire game. I absolutely enjoyed learning to navigate a dangerous and relentless world that is so beautifully designed. I found it a little difficult to be motivated to get all the secrets, but there are many and I think it’s cool that they are there. What really drove me to play this game a lot was the boss fights. I loved them so much. They were so much fun and really well designed. #168 on the ULTRA.

Risk of Rain 2

Risk of Rain, but it’s 3D. That’s…that’s literally it. #160 on the ULTRA. Still has that same, “It’s time for you to get owned and die in 0.5 seconds.” kind of thing. Still has that same fun too though.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

It’s rare to have a unique open world take, and this game is one of those. I really like the characters and the monster designs. Hunting feels great. It still has some older style open world designs where you’re chasing icons, but I am really overwhelmed by how well they implemented and handled this post-apocalyptic robot arc. #79 on the ULTRA.

Fallout: New Vegas

More Fallout. People say it’s so different from Fallout 3, but if we are to be honest with ourselves, it’s not. It’s more of the same gameplay wise. Story-wise it’s pretty stretched like the old cRPG days, and I think that is something people LOVE. And it’s definitely a good thing too. I think it does indeed improve on all things of its predecessor and deserves all that love the fans give it. However… it is so. insanely. GLITCHY. I’ve played glitchy Fallout and Elder Scrolls games, but nothing as bad as this. I don’t play with mods because it is the developer’s responsibility, not the fans, to fix all this stuff. The fans do great things for games like this, but really, the developer needs to be responsible. Save losses, game crashes, load glitches, movement glitches, all amounted to a game I could only put on Honorable Mentions because it is just that frustrating. The players should not have to suffer such annoyances that debilitate such a great game.

But in the end I will still respect that gameplay and recommend to anyone who loves these kinds of open world games.


There were a few other games that I played that did not earn any awards at all, most of them consisting of Assassin’s Creed. But…that was the year’s round up. I finished a good amount of games this year because I was a little more motivated. And of course, I am still playing Genshin Impact, because I love that game to death. Ironically, or perhaps unironically, it brought out both the best and the ugliest side of gamers the world has to see. I’ve seen such great support, and such great racism and colonist behavior, but in the end, it’s been great.

Was 2021 good? Does it deserve and Honorable Mention?

No. It is you who deserves it. You made it through this ridiculous year. I seriously can’t believe we had to go through another year of this, and it will likely last until at least 2023. In fact, you deserve to be on the top 12 for surviving this darn stuff. As gamers we have been through a lot, but even after all the hate and stuff, I commend the community for being decent during this difficult time and understanding how difficult it is to live life and make games during this time. Perhaps it’s because we’re all suffering and not just the developers that brings about this sympathy (or empathy) in the community. Although things seem frightening for game developers at this time, I feel like there is a lot more support for better work environments for women and minority groups in all of the industry.

Regardless, you did it, player! I hope you were able to enjoy a good amount of gaming this year and wish you fortune and good luck next year. Whatever your endeavors may be, even if they’re not gaming related, I hope you have the strength to carry on.

Elise

Committing to Never

Designing and playing games that don’t end

There are a lot of reasons why we play video games.  And for a good amount of us, and I can definitely say for myself, we play for the story.

So what about those people still playing after the story?

The design of games that don’t end have been there since the very beginning.  It’s certainly not as common anymore, but remember high scores?  Arcade games carry this in nearly all genres.  If we look back with the games we have now, they don’t even seem necessary.  We see this in top down shooters like Space Invaders, platformers like Donkey Kong, and even fighting games like Street Fighter.  As I have said, these are all arcade games, which means playing them for longer periods of time means more coins out of your pocket.  So of course they want you to be ambitious.  However, this kind of thing continued on even when arcade cabinets were no longer your main source of gaming.

Super Mario Bros., a game that was beloved by many people in their homes, still has a high score counter.  In fact, people use the high score things for other meta-competitions as well.  We have people winning the game with the fastest speed, but lowest score possible.  You can actually watch some of those speedruns online.  They are fantastic and awe-inspiring.  But, Super Mario Bros. hair-thin story does end.  The challenges eventually do cease.  And these kinds of things are normal for all these story games.  And yet, people keep playing.

Around the time when less arcade-y games removed their scores, ew kinds of designs started popping up where there was no end.  These can go from optional multiplayer games like Diablo and Genshin Impact, or we can go with MMOs like Lineage, Maplestory, Guild Wars, all those other MMOs we see online.  Then there’s also games made for multiplayer like Battlefield and new genres like battle royales and MOBAs like PUBG and DoTA 2 respectively. 

What is driving these games to exist forever?  And…why do we keep playing them?

Where is the fun?  

Never ending games exist solely because of where the fun comes from.  If a game’s fun is the story, it ends where the story ends.  We already talked about arcade games and them siphoning money out of you, so let’s start with games like Super Mario Bros. where the ending is meant to be exactly that, the ending. 

People create their own games with the games.  I’m talking about the speedrunners and the meta-competition.  I remember playing Super Mario Bros. where the main goal was to not kill any enemies, making some platforming elements rather difficult.  

I think a great example of this is GiantGrantGames on Youtube where he played Starcraft II and he had to play through the story without losing a single unit.  I’ve had times playing critically failed games and we set our own rules to laugh and joke throughout the whole thing, even if the controls were terrible.  Ultimately for these situations, we are the ones creating the game and we are the ones creating the fun.  That was where the reward, the fun, was.

Some games keep us having fun by having solid gameplay.  I replay Mario games because the platforming is so solid.  I keep playing Genshin Impact because the fighting gameplay is very enjoyable, even if I’m just fighting a similar group of Hilichurls for my dailies.  A lot of people play battle royale games or shooter games like Battlefield over and over again because each bit of adrenaline rush is what they’re chasing.  It’s all about that energy and (hopefully) fun.

Many MMO games like The Division series or the Destiny series have reward-based fun.  The gameplay can be great, but the goal that is frankly placed by the developers is that you need item X.  You need that next thing.  You need that next skin/cosmetic.  While this is okay, it walks dangerously close to negative game design.  If we’re only playing for the final reward, it is easy for the game to feel like a chore.  

These kinds of items are usually dropped from events or other time-limited situations.  It’s about chasing that next thing, but if the gameplay or the story within is not enough the game can end up being unfun.  And who wants to play something unfun? 

I think it’s a mistake to believe that the endgame is the only thing that matters with games like these.  Both the main game and the endgame have their strengths to keep them entertaining, but it’s all about how they are implemented.  Genshin Impact’s events usually have great rewards, but there is usually some overarching story as well, so it’s not just mindlessly killing mobs.  While I am not a professional game designer by any means, I believe there to be a solution to making things like the endgame more fun. 

Not surprisingly, most of it can be solved by having the gameplay itself be fun, so when there are new things to be done, new goals to be reached, it is still fun to play.

There are, even still, outliers that continually bring people back to certain games: the prestige of holding your rank, or if you’re like me, forgetting some of the story and you simply want to enjoy it again.  There are also things that can be predatory things like daily quests that make you feel like you missed out if you’re not coming back.  Ironically, I could point that finger back at Genshin Impact again even though I previously praised that.  But that’s just the thing, isn’t it?  For me, it is not a problem, but for others, that is definitely a negative.  

So after all this, the meta-games, the competition, the stories, the gameplay, the reward-based goals, the ranks.  After all these things, which of them brings the fun for you?  That’s what matters.  I’m not trying to play the “everyone’s a winner” kind of play here, but I’m asking the question of how can we enter, or even create, an environment that helps us have fun?  I think some developers do this in earnest and truly try to create good, infinitely fun environments, while others are there just for your money (or that could be a corporate thing, it depends).  

I know I’m always doing this kind of thing where I put the responsibility on our, the gamers, shoulders.  But…where is the fun for you?  Find that out, and then use that time to enjoy it.  Don’t feel guilty about it.  Don’t go back to the game that isn’t fun for you.  Don’t let that sunk-cost fallacy catch you.  

Let your voice be heard by having fun, because remember, we’re committing to never having an end.

Unsurprise! Why I Hate People Who Spoil Things

And Not Really The Spoilers Themselves

Spoilers are not bad.  There is no “right” path to choosing when it comes to whether or not you want spoilers.  It is merely that someone chooses a path, and you respect that path.  

I am apparently one of those people in the world that don’t enjoy things well when things are spoiled.  According to studies it seems that most people do enjoy things well with them, but I can’t even count any games or films that I actually enjoyed when it was spoiled, even when critically and/or popularly acclaimed.  I don’t care if people want to spoil things for themselves, it’s whether or not they care about spoiling it for others.  It’s not so much a matter of entertainment for me, because it is something I can lose.  It is a matter of gauging people’s respect for others.  The only thing someone can lose for not telling a spoiler is the pride that someone can have of telling someone something they don’t know.  Which, frankly, is a very douchey reason to do it.  Most websites put pretty good spoiler tags, so if you spoil those for yourselves even when it’s obvious like that that’s your own fault.

So it’s mostly the same thing you can realize for how they react to other life decisions, and for this one, it’s really shopping cart-esque.  To put away the cart is of little effort, and there is no consequence for not doing it.   There really is very little loss in not spoiling something, and whether or not someone can hold their tongue in that aspect is quite a tell of someone’s respect.  Accidents happen of course, especially when vocally speaking, and that’s fine.  People make mistakes.

For me it all stems back to what the person is like towards me.  It’s so much more than just the game or the film.  And what worries me the most goes even further.  I am worried for the people who think that, at any level of anonymity, it won’t affect them.  But again, this is a matter of respect, and nobody lives in a vacuum. Sooner or later they will have to learn respect, and I just don’t want their experience to end up being worse than just words.

Leaks are a bit different.  Leaks are more like a surprise party.  I find it even more selfish in this situation than spoilers to give away leaks because the creators are withholding information for the sake of our enjoyment.  I just think, “We just wanted to make you happy,”  kind of thing is a sad expression to see broken.  I also don’t like leaks because they create an unwarranted and unexpected level of hype.  The audience may grow an expectation that is much higher than normal because usually only a little bit of information is let out and at too early a time.  Then they are disappointed when it was they themselves that set up the situation.  A good marketing team sets up times for announcements for a reason, and a lot of it is this.  You want a controlled situation when you show your product to the public.  You’re not being a superfan by sabotaging the creators.

So by all means, if you want to know the stories for yourselves, go ahead and look them up.  If you want to feel ahead, just do it.  Leaks can be illegal, so I would discourage that.  But don’t feel bad about spoiling things for yourself if you consent.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been gatekept out of a situation just because I am someone who doesn’t do well with spoilers.  Not because they can’t talk about it, but because I am both actively and passively removed from the group the same way some women won’t work in some places because the atmosphere is just too toxic.  I am always seen as a lesser person in this community because of this, and, let me tell you, as part of a minority group in real life I get enough of that.  So for goodness sake, all I want is some respect.  The fact that I have to actively ask for that in the entertainment community I exist in is such a low standard, and I care enough to actually vouch for it.

Elise

Why I Love: Alan Wake

Two Sides

I love Alan Wake, for the same reason a lot of people found it mediocre.  Alan Wake is a third-person action (shooter?) game.  Alan Wake, a writer of a thriller series, goes on vacation to a lake house, only to be haunted by shadowed entities that remind him of his own works.  He can expose and destroy these entities by shining a flashlight at them.  That’s mostly all you need to know about it for what I want to talk about today.  

It is a good game.  It is very crisp, and it feels like playing an episode of The Twilight Zone.  Were it not for good game design it probably wouldn’t be on the ULTRA.  But what I really like about this game is that it is truly a simple game about fighting the darkness, both outside and within.  

I don’t feel like Alan Wake is that psychological, but it’s what defeating darkness within sometimes feels like.  It feels helpless and frustrating (not game design-wise, just for Mr. Wake).  It feels like we’re in an episode of a TV show we can’t get out of.  Ultimately, it’s a fight of light and darkness.  We can also mean that literally because of his flashlight.

I remember when my brother and I were so excited for Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty, and we were watching the trailer.  In the trailer Raynor says, “Because the one thing I know; some things are just worth fighting for.”  And I remember my brother saying something about how that is so, so cheesy.  I love cheesy things, and over time I’ve learned why I love cheesy things like that line or the fight between light and darkness.  I love cheesy things because they’re the most real, and Alan Wake emphasizes that in an age where we’re supposed to be so unique in themes.

The struggle against ourselves and knowing what is light in our lives is real.  That’s a real thing.  Knowing what you fight for?  That’s real.  “I’m doing this because I love you”?  I need that.  I wonder if the reason we don’t like cheesy things sometimes is because they remind us of what is real.  This is why I love Alan Wake.  We’re just some random person fighting to find their way out of the darkness. 

Isn’t that what most of us want to do?  We want to be a light to those around us.  We want to truly find light and what is good in all the travails of life and use it to banish the darkness.  When it comes to those that we love, isn’t that what we want to do for them?  It’s cheesy, but it’s true, and Alan Wake embraces it.  That is one of the big reasons why I love the game.

Alan Wake is #116 on the ULTRA.  I hope that we can all endeavor to be a light in the darkness especially during these strange times.  Thanks for reading, I’ll see you next time.
– Elise

Being an Active Audience

No Backseat Directing

I’ve talked about this before, but it’s something that I always feel so pushed to emphasize all the time.  This applies to books, movies, games, or really, almost any medium that delivers a story or rise in interaction.  

You’ve run into them before.  You know, the people who say they saw that plot twist coming, or the person who knew that character arc.  “Ah, this character is this trope again? I’m so bored of that trope!”  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with understanding the workings behind how a story tells itself, a character arc has its growth, or a game design teaches you how to play.  In fact, these are all things I have had to study as I go along my gaming and art-ing life.  Recently, I read a post on social media platform X on how learning how to write books sometimes takes the fun out of reading books.  You know the designs and the elements.  You know the turns and the descriptions.  Sometimes, for worse and for better, you can see the mistakes.  “Oh, I used to do that too!”

So after all is said and learnt, are these things not fun anymore?  This is where I think there begins a need for effort on a player’s part.  An effort…to make less effort.  To let ourselves be tricked.  To let ourselves be gobsmacked.  The same way we let ourselves take the expected (and sometimes super unexpected) parts of children’s imaginations and go with it, especially if we’re the parents.  To act like a humble student and take it all in as if the world was filled with wonder again.

Sometimes plot holes exist.  Ahem, plot holes always exist, but perhaps, hopefully by an accidental existence, they are now there to be filled with our imagination.  I guess there are people who, when brought a movie, expect the films to do it all for them.  And the same way for books or games.  I suppose the perspective of what it means to be the audience differs from one person to another.  But, should you feel that you are not being satisfied because they’re too predictable, perhaps taking a step into letting ourselves be stunned again, is the step to take.  

Skeletonizing a game or a movie can also take the fun out of it, if you let it.  Stories and designs, when stripped of their emotional and cosmetic bearings become technical rigs and concepts, with little entertainment value.  These shells and skeletons have their functions, but if we rip everything off of it, how can we expect more?  I can’t help but feel like it’s a little pretentious when people start talking about how the story wasn’t enough to entertain them or how it was so predictable.  

In the end, it’s not really a wrong perspective.  I mean, without hindsight bias, if they really found out, then they really found out.  But, I don’t know.  Were they thinking about it the whole time or were they watching the movie?  I guess it’s easier in games ‘cause there’s a good amount of downtime in between plot points.  It just feels really weird that people are setting up their own roadblocks to getting entertained by what they want to be entertained by.  I guess the reason I argue for the other side is that this is Game Praisers.

That’s what we do.  We take whatever is good.  That doesn’t mean that we ignore the bad, but the more we appreciate what we can appreciate the less we act as if starving kings and queens who can only partake in the exquisite.  You can be ahead of the game, but you don’t have to be snooty.  Ultimately, it’s also one of my goals in life to just be more accepting and open-minded to what can be good.  To never forget that just because we eat better food now, doesn’t mean food in general is forgotten of what it provides.  Of course the top-notch games and films are what we’d like.  Of course we love the non-broken game design, but we never, ever forget humble beginnings and the child-like wonder that made video games so fascinating in the first place.

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you next time.
– Elise

My 2020 in Gaming

I’m’a drop this real quick here. This was recorded in my notes, and I thought it would be nice to share here. My notes are even more casual than I usually am, so sorry if it’s a little erratic. Enjoy!

——————————————–

My top 12 games of the year in no particular order.  These are games that I’ve played in 2020, not necessarily released in 2020.  Asterisks mark ones that are actually from the year 2020.  

Honorable Mentions:

DiRT Rally 2.0

  • I can’t really tell when I started playing this, but I think it was January/February.  So I’ma put it on here.

Celeste 

  • Nor can I tell with this one, since Epic Games doesn’t tell you, which is why it is here, because I think I played it like, the last week of December. But if it is from this year, most darn definitely it should be on the actual list.  This game made me cry and I love it, because I can relate to the story so well.  Number 9 on the ULTRA.  This game can boast the most absolutely perfect difficulty curve.  Tells a super super good and mature story through a platforming game.  Also, I’ve been following Matt Thorson’s games since Jumper 2.  It was his games that got me through the era of “I’m Too Young to Buy Games for Myself”, and his free indie games got me through life.

Path of Exile

  • Because I still play this wonderful game.

Fallout 3

  • This is a super good open world game, but I have very little emotional attachment to it.  If you want a good sci-fi open world game though, play it.  It even rivals Skyrim for me.  

THE ACTUAL LIST:

Crysis

  • Man.  This game.  I thought it was just going to be a show off of graphics, but it’s more than that.  The attention to detail is what makes this more than “graphics”.  There are a lot of unnecessary details that they have in this game that they just weren’t lazy enough to do.  Also, the gameplay proved to be quite fun.  The super suit really makes you feel like The Predator.  It mixes up the gameplay and makes it really unique.  The weird silly-movie-ish storyline is really fun as well.  

Dishonored series

  • Oh my goodness.  I can’t… I can’t.  Dishonored 1 and 2 slashed their way to the top of the ULTRA, getting 5th and 3rd place on the entire list respectively.  The world-building and lore are so insanely well done, and the level designs are definitely some of the best game designs I have ever seen in my entire gaming life.  The stealth mechanics are done very crisp.  Things react the way you expect them to react, making plans feel great when you pull them off.  Problems do not happen for arbitrary reasons, it’s because of planning.  But they also designed it well in the way the game plays after problems happen.  I actually do not flip out when I get caught, because the way the game moves after you’re caught is designed well.  If you want a good stealth series, or just a game with an awesome world, play this series.  Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is also great, but it’s definitely a smaller punch than 1 and 2.  I’m counting these as one game.  HA!

Kero Blaster

  • This game is made by Studio Pixel, the creators of Cave Story.  Amaya Daisuke STILL GOTS IT.  This is such a good 2D shooter, but you might have noticed it never got on the Top 12 Games list.  BECAUSE IT’S TOO DANG SHORT.  It’s such a tease because Amaya does such a good job at making these funny little 2D shooters.  

Psychonauts

  • Psychonauts is an…unexpected game.  I usually play these cult classics to see what the fuss is all about.  The controls are a little bit janky, and the graphics are old, but it’s still a great game.  The music is quite nice, but the thing that really gets me is it’s super progressive (at the time) approach to mental illness.  I also really love Rasputin, because his voice actor does a good job and also because Ras is someone who genuinely cares about the people who are suffering mental health or trauma.  The way the level designs are conveyed accordingly to each person’s experience are very inspiring.

Resident Evil 4

  • I’m not good with horror games.  You’ve heard me say it before, but… I really really really really really love a fun story.  And it turns out, the gameplay is really good.  The way you shoot is unique and feels great, which in turn I think would be terrible on a controller.  A small spoiler, [[[[[[[[[[]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]   

    NPCs that you have to guide around are NOT annoying.  Seriously, this is like a huge plus.  It’s one of the few times where I felt like the NPC didn’t actually feel very helpless and glitchy.

    [[[[[[[[]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]]

    Inventory management turned out to be kind of fun, and some of the designs of the monsters are really cool (and scary).

Transistor

  • Uhm…  this game is more like an experience.  I admit I had a hard time with this game, as in it was just difficult for me to play, because I suck at the strange and cool system they have for combat.  The art style is absolutely fabulous, as Supergiant Games is wont to do.  The story, characters, and world murder my soul.  If you want a top-tier indie experience, play this.

Borderlands 3 Super Deluxe Edition***

  • Ah, Borderlands.  I love the Borderlands series so much, but it kind of petered out for a little bit, until I finished the campaign and started playing the seasonal stuff.  I’ve explained before but I must say it again; the core of the new gun designs and gameplay mixed with the funny and well-written content for the seasonal stuff is what I’ve been wanting for a new Borderlands experience.  It’s a lot of good fun, and I’m lucky enough to have experienced it with someone who I very much enjoy playing games with.

Animal Crossing: New Horizons***

  • Probably the best in the series.  Every time a new Animal Crossing in the main series (sorry Amiibo Festival) makes a big jump (sorry City Folk) I feel like I fall in love with Animal Crossing all over again.  However, lately I’ve been pushing myself to finish more games, and so my play time with Animal Crossing has decreased, but whenever I play again, especially when I play with my siblings, I have a ton of fun.  We goof around a lot and do silly stuff but it’s a fun time.

Fire Emblem: Awakening

  • A weapon durability system that doesn’t annoy me?  Great turn-based combat?  Characters and story filled with emotions and dialogue?  Art style I friggin love?  Amazing music?  This game checked all the boxes.  I also just really love the art.  Also I love all the characters.  I want to hug them all.  This one is definitely up here more because of my love and emotion than the gameplay (although that’s good too).

Genshin Impact***

  • This thing.  Another surprise I was not expecting.  I gotta be honest, a huge part is that I’m so darn proud of a good Chinese game, and one that is (mostly) not battered by racist or typical comments about Chinese products.  And of course the other part is that I love all the characters and story.  The exploration and combat are fan-friggin-tastic.  Although if you get to the late game it gets kind of grindy and mobile-gamey, but the demand for your money concerning the gacha is not really there unless you desperately want a different character.  Some of the story elements in this game are really, really good.  The characters, I want to hug them all.  I feel all chummy because of all the story arcs.

Final Fantasy VII

  • OKAY.  Why did I play so many emotional games?  Final Fantasy is one of the long-standing gaming goals I have to play them all in order.  I’ve heard people throw their opinions of the ones I am going up against. Ever since Final Fantasy IV, this series has been slicing onions in front of my face and FFVII was no different.  I LOVE THIS SERIES SO DARN MUCH.  oof.   There are a few designs from FFVI that I prefer would be brought over, but it’s still such a darn good game.

Paper Mario: The Origami King***

  • Last one.  Maybe it’s because it looked severely disappointing.  Maybe it’s because I still hoped in my heart still even after all that.  OR MAYBE.  Maybe it’s just because Nintendo and Intelligent Systems actually made another darn good Paper Mario game.  It’s different, yes.  And the next one after this will also probably be different.  But, for now let us savor the fact that this game is really darn good.  Music and writing/jokes in the Paper Mario series has ALWAYS been up to snuff, even during the Sticker Star / Color Splash era.  That checks off here too (I REALLY love the music).  I’m surprised the world and characters are built so well even after the no non-standard Mario lore restriction.  And the puzzle attack gameplay turned out quite all right.  I never would’ve thought, but this game turned out to be one of the best ones of the year.  

Maybe it’s because of quarantine or something, but I finished a ton of games.  There are still more that are not on this list, but I didn’t put them because I’ve already eaten a ton of your time.  Here’s to another year of gaming!