I Didn’t Know What I Was Doing

Reminiscing on the Misunderstood

Sometimes after I’ve played a game for a while, I will look back at places that seemed new, or concepts that I didn’t quite understand and feel nostalgia.  I mean, the game has to be at least a couple hours long or something, but the mind space where everything looks and feels different brings nostalgia.  These cases especially so when I think about games that I played in my childhood and teens.  There were so many times when, looking back, the ideas I had were so ridiculous.


I remember playing SimCity 3000 Unlimited, and trying to build a city.  My young mind absolutely did not comprehend the logistics behind good city planning.  I had no idea what I was doing, but I was having a ton of fun.  I mean, there were always the pre-made cities that you can purposely destroy using the disasters.  I admit I did have fun with that.  But I really like the moments where I was still struggling to understand not just games, but systems in general.  I didn’t understand commercial and residential zones!  Why were people abandoning their homes!?  I built too little power plants, and now I built too many?  

If I remember correctly, there was a point where a neighboring city wanted to buy the extra electricity and I was like, “Yeah, that sounds great!”  I then proceeded to zone a ton of lots and they were like, “This isn’t working out.”  And I was so confused and did not realize all those lots were using that supposed extra electricity I had.  I mean, this is basic stuff, right?  But I was still growing and understanding how things connect and work.  I think this kind of slow, personal learning of systems is one of the longer, persistent barriers to newer players.  However, when we’re young we have the time, and by the time we’re older we have that experience.  It’s like when you start a new hobby any time after high school or college, everything feels slow and miserable because you’ve had zero experience here.  It’s that beginning growth we have to get over (and trying to find time to practice because later in life time is very lacking).

Two other games where I didn’t get it yet were Age of Empires and Starcraft.  Misunderstanding resources and how to manage them (I never learned until much later).  In Starcraft, believing that the pylons warped in units (which they do in Starcraft II).  I was going to go on more about these two other games, but I realized they’re both real time strategy games.  In fact, SimCity is kind of a real time strategy game as well!  Let me think of something that has had similar experiences that aren’t RTS games…


There’s a bit of that in the old point and click adventure games.  I feel like these classic adventures are making a bit of a comeback, but some of the old ones have some major barriers to newcomers.  I remember playing Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and I could not for the life of my young mind understand some of the logistics.  I didn’t understand the systems of point and click games.  I didn’t understand showing objects to NPCs, asking about information, or knowing what things look likely clickable (or to click on less obvious clickable things).

In other point and click games I didn’t understand, as Sean “Day[9]” Plott calls it, “moon logic.”  Some crazy, “unfathomable to the normal person” logic as to why that NPC needed a dog bowl.  Or why, for some strange reason, that person needed bird seed, but the game somehow connects that to your objective and hey, somehow that bird seed gave you the casino coin you needed to get into the building.  Every long once in a while, I do play point and click games.  There are few genres I refrain from.  I think people might think of them as old school.  Perhaps they’re not for everyone, but I still think people should try the genre if they haven’t yet.  Sometimes it makes me feel smart, especially compared to young Elise who had no idea what the world she was doing sometimes.


I suppose other genres are a lot more intuitive so this kind of misunderstanding is less of a thing, but huge RPGs like Guild Wars 2 or Genshin Impact still have that feeling.  Still trying to understand how specializations for your classes worked in Guild Wars or not knowing how to manage daily resin properly in Genshin Impact.  I think some people, especially in games that entice you in for daily play or mobile games, are afraid of not being efficient enough in the beginning and just going in like a train. Full force and full efficiency.  But I like the feeling of going in blind and wandering around like a child, full of wonder and excitement.

I will always have that feeling of nostalgia in games because I usually go in blind.  I trust the track record that I love almost every game I play and let this experience be a thing.  

I’m not afraid to go in blind, because I love the sense of wonder.  I feel like we have the most fun when we’re not thinking about being productive.  We’re not thinking about having to know everything.  I mean, according to the supposed spoilers research, people do like knowing things beforehand, so I could be totally wrong.  

But that’s just the thing, I feel happy that I didn’t know what I was doing back then, or whenever I start a new game.  I love the chaos and the unknown.  I think it is because I enjoy that feeling of discovery that I’m okay with being bad at things (…sometimes).  That isn’t to say we’re to go about making gaming difficult for ourselves or anything.  I mean, obviously sometimes it doesn’t feel great in the moment, but in the end I’m grateful for all the ups and downs.

That’s life, though.  Maybe all this thinking is making me be more grateful for all the life I’ve had so far: the good and the bad.  I’m grateful for both.  I’ll just keep learning and growing. I just didn’t know what I was doing, and, every once in a while, I can say I know now.  And I’m okay with that.  

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

Elise

The One Note NPCs

Love the passions

This is for those NPCs in video games that have great designs, but they’re pretty one note.  I’m talking about the NPCs who are so focused on a single goal in their life.  Their character designs are usually fantastic and when you meet them you feel like you can immediately get what they’re like.  The eccentric bug collector that will buy all your bugs or take them for upgrades.  The man that is so fascinated by this very, very specific kind of rock that will give you a bunch of cash for them.  And those rocks just happen to be in places of great achievement.  

I know that these characters are frequently just filling in the niche roles of some side quests or collectibles, but there is so much darn character in them and I love them.  We’re always pushing for more interesting and complex characters, but the passion in someone so one note in these games, which are usually RPGs, is so charming.  I can’t get over how happy I am for this person when I finally find that golden beetle or whatever it is they’re collecting.

Maybe they’re someone fascinated by flowering vines, and it turns out flowering vines indicate secret climbable areas.  If it weren’t for this person saying, “Oh, look at that one.  That flower is purple.  Ooh!  This one is pink!  Oh, I just love flowering vines.  Don’t you?” we never would’ve guessed!  Okay, maybe we might’ve guessed, but it’s a cute way to point out things.  I admit sometimes these people can be a bit annoying, like the guy in Pokemon who just wants to teach you how to catch a Pokemon.  I get that that is an important aspect of the game, sir, but I do want to move on with the game.  But still, his passion is noted, and I’m glad he just wants to share it.

I guess that’s a good sign of someone who is very passionate about things: they want to share their knowledge and their experiences.   It’s the reason why we don’t talk about certain things in games, because we want people to experience the same shock and awe that we went through not knowing a plot twist or something.  

If you’re reading this article, it’s likely you’re passionate about games.  That’s great!  However, it is also quite likely there is something else outside of games that you’re super into as well.  Maybe the people in these worlds do have other things they’re chasing after but we just don’t know it in the context of the game.  Luckily for us, we can always have many passions.  It’s still great if games are your only passion!  Don’t let me stop you there!  

I get excited with people just starting to get into video games, but fully committing to them.  Sometimes they struggle with the disparity between the controller and their character.  Maybe they’re getting used to understanding game system intuition.  But they still push on through, and it makes me so happy to see them develop a new love for something.  Their growth is just as important as mine no matter how long I’ve developed mine.  

Wait a minute, maybe in your world, I am the NPC who is just really passionate about video games.  Well, I suppose then that you’re part of the community and I’m one of many video game loving NPCs.  Don’t let other people push you away from what you love.  If what you love is starting to get unhealthy because you’re staying up until four in the morning to play, okay, maybe slow it down a little.  Don’t let your dreams be thrown away by someone who doesn’t own them.  A small insight from someone who has let that happen, it is debilitating and humiliating.  It really cut into how I felt about my self esteem and self worth.  Let’s be frank, the video game community can be choking to the individual.  They can easily smother what they hype up.  It has taken me years and years to repair the damage, and I’m still working on it today.

Oppositely, that is why I love those NPCs.  They are unabashedly showing off that they love this thing.  They’re (usually) not interrupting anyone else’s lives, but they definitely want to talk about their excitement for something.  They’re free.  

Too many times I regret falling to that choking idea that what I love to do isn’t good enough for someone else.  Or even that I’m not “hardcore” enough to have a passion to belong to a community or something. 

And that simply isn’t true.  I hope none of us ever has to feel embarrassed about what we love.  

Thanks for reading, I’ll see you again.

Elise


It’s Okay to Grind

A little bit of that

There is a parallel in gaming that always makes me think.  In a lot of RPGs, especially MMOs, we are just grinding to get that next weapon or cosmetic.  Every day, every hour, every minute, we’re moving that little progress bar forward.  Sometimes when we do this it’s that little movement that makes us feel satisfied.  I feel great that I filled that exp bar again.  I suppose in those situations it can seem a little more justified, as that skill point can make a difference in what I can do.  

Maybe we’re grinding because we are undertrained for that boss that we died from.  Maybe I just want to open another engram in Destiny.  Sometimes we’re grinding the grind, like in The Sims, where I’m just trying to earn enough money to get a new piece of furniture.  We’re literally playing a game where we grind to earn money just like in real life when we could be doing the exact same thing in real life.  The weird thing is that one of the versions is considered entertainment.

Is there something wrong with just chipping away at life to get to the next thing?  While I believe that enjoying the journey is important, what if we really just want to learn that skill or get that sound system for the home entertainment room?  I think there is a lot of good that can be found in the grind, especially if it involves community or friends.

Let me be clear, it can be a negative thing.  It’s often not a good sign if we’re grinding months away of our lives just to get that one object.  It’s probable that the satisfaction won’t last very long.  This applies to both real life and in game.  Maybe that weapon wasn’t as exciting as we thought it was going to be when we finally wield it.  I think what I’m getting at is that the best situations are when the grind and the end result are both enjoyable.  Sometimes the grind itself isn’t enjoyable.  I’m thinking about long term goals like getting to a good place in physical health, earning money only to spend it on fixing something in the house, or the grind of working at a place I don’t want to work at but I still have to to survive.  Some grinds are more valuable to me than others, and cutting some out or adding some in can greatly affect my health.  This includes games.

Some games won’t be worth my time anymore.  I stopped playing Destiny 2 because I’m a lonely person who pushes away those who try to get close to me, but also PvE as a lone person was not great.  The grind for the engrams/lootboxes got even more tedious with their newer updates.  I love cosmetics.  I like the grind to search for an item, but…who am I doing it for?  The games weave in and out of my life depending on how important those grinds feel to me.  Guild Wars 2 appears every once in a while when my small community pops in to play for a couple of weeks.  Is my daily maintenance of Genshin Impact worth it?  The gameplay is always fun, and I love the characters, so it remains.  I still play Path of Exile, but I’m running out of themed characters to make.  Will it still be worth it to me?  I guess that depends on why I’m doing it.

Some people can go for hours because they’re with friends.  Or maybe they just really want that Dragonbash stuff in Guild Wars.  I think for me, while there is some feeling of missing out at times, I grind mostly to unwind.  If I don’t have the mental strength to commit to a story, the grind is the way to go.  I am often in a bad way because of a collection of mental illnesses, but grinding is something that is alright for me during those times.  And sometimes it’s the opposite.  

I think the idea that grinding is such a bad thing is not inherent.  It all depends on how we use it.  Sometimes you need a break.  It’s okay to slow down and just chip away at something, hang out with friends, or just recharge.  There is nothing wrong with that.  Maybe design-wise grinding can be bad, but how we use it can be healthy.  It is easy to fall into bad habits of letting the grind takeover our lives because we don’t want to be doing things, but with good management I think grinding can be a refuge.  It can be a refuge from our refuge of gaming.  We just need some time to not worry. 

It is perhaps in times like these that that kind of feeling is a sanctuary to us: a place where we can rest and say, “It’s okay.”

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

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

Intentional Playing

Playing to work?  Or playing to play?

I’ve written about this in the past, but I feel like bringing it up again. I have an issue I’ve been working on the past year or two.  I am so caught up in being productive.  I have a job and my art production on the side.  While those occupy a lot of my time, the thing that really occupies my time is my interest in just about everything.  I know I have a limited amount of time here on Earth, but I’ve set all my productivity for eternity.  So my ideal is to act as if I would last forever. 

I love video games.  This site was originally not going to be called Game Praisers, but something more general.  I’ve spent so much time researching and learning things unrelated to games.  I have a good foundation of  biology, chemistry, and physics.  I’ve had my foray into business, programming, accounting, and a few other unrelated things.  Just because I’m very interested in all that.

However, being a jack of all trades is time consuming, and I’ve felt that the pressure to be productive as I try to continue this hugely lateral growth is seeping into everything I do.  And that includes video games.  I think it’s very probable that anyone who has a job or is trying to get a new skill can have that same issue start to pop up in their lives.  It doesn’t help that, contextually, we are in a covid-19 world where we spent a lot of time indoors.  I know that didn’t affect me too much, because I am not a social person, but I saw other people struggle with feeling productive being indoors all the time.

That need for productivity is now in a place where I feel like it shouldn’t belong.  Video games are meant to be fun.  I’m not very good at relaxing.  I’m always having to do something.  I hate naps.  I need to be doing something “productive”, which in this case has also come to mean that I must consume media at a desired rate as well.  That Assassin’s Creed year last year probably didn’t help either.  

So now, while I’m still trying to move around and get into all these games, I want to be more intentional with playing games . Playing games with the intention to have fun and the intention to relax.  I was advised to intentionally relax.  To have time set aside.  To do things knowing that the purpose is for me to relax or to enjoy my time.  This is why movies are a very good way for me to intentionally relax.  I get focused and that’s all I can think of.  The whole purpose of it is, well, it.  But with games, especially because we have to make efforts to do things, I kind of get the feeling of having to be productive again. 

I have to level this many times, I have to get this many resources, or I have to get this far into a level.  But all that really kills the joy of gaming.  Even if I’m playing with the intention of concentration like in cataclysm mode for Vermintide II, I have to really be focused on getting to that point to really get that flow and enjoyment.  

And now, just now, when I’m already at a veteran-ish age in the world of gaming, I need to re-learn how to sit down and play for the intention of playing. This sounds dumb.  I’m kind of repeating myself, but this is something that I think is important and something that I feel like might be unaware to some people.  I think it’s a mental health kind of thing as well.  I want people to recognize that our mental health will affect how we enjoy games.  It’s an important part of our bodies to take care of, and I want us to enjoy games to the fullest.

The internet was really bad this last week, and I couldn’t even turn the computer on due to network issues.  So I grabbed the Nintendo Switch and I booted up the random game I bought like, a year ago, and started playing.  It was Final Fantasy Adventure  in the Collection of Mana.  I remember stopping several times because of the archaic systems of direction in it, but I had nothing else to do.  I mean, I had other things to do.  I have plenty of backlog research I could do.  But I really just wanted to play a game, and this was one of my only options.

So I sat there and struggled, but then I decided to try and figure out this oldschool game.  I found myself getting really sucked into it.  Time flew by just like it did in my younger days.  I played because I intended to really just play a video game.  I sometimes lament this feeling of not having time to play games and then only playing thirty minutes to try and squeeze whatever I can before I have to get back into the grind of work, and I don’t enjoy it.

Sometimes circumstances make it really difficult, but I’m going to keep working on this idea of just playing purely for the game again.  Even if it’s just the thirty minutes I have left of the day, I’m just gonna let it happen.

I did that last night on Deep Rock Galactic.  Typing this now I just realized that.  I had thirty minutes left, and I just went all in.  I planned for one game, but I committed fully to just getting into it.  I suppose I’ve come pretty far in this long journey of enjoying games again.

One last thing, for some of you, gaming might even have to take a backseat.  It might be another activity that is more relaxing.   Regardless, be intentional with your time to relax.  It’s hard and, no matter how dumb it sounds, you might have to work at being able to relax.  Keep at it though.  Ultimately, our physical and mental health is pretty important. 

So take care of yourself, stay safe, and let’s enjoy video games again.  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

Lone Wanderers Together

Single Player Co-op

I’m definitely a single player gamer.  If it has to be multiplayer it better be cooperative play, and even then I might just play through the whole thing by myself.  For example, The Division series I played 98% by myself.  I like taking things at my own pace and style.  My playstyle tends to conflict with a lot of my friends’ styles so I’d rather just not be a burden on the whole group.  

I love being a long wanderer.  I have a harder time with games where you need to control a squad unless it’s a top down view like an RTS or MOBA game.  In the Fallout series I never travel with a companion unless I need to for a quest.  Same goes for the Elder Scrolls series.  Sometimes I’ll still have to go through it though, like in Baldur’s Gate or Mass Effect, but I can grit my teeth and “get along” with people.  Perhaps I’m just not a people person.

After all is said and done, one of my favorite things to do with single player games is to talk with other players who have finished it and hear their sides of the story.  What choices did they make that differ from me?  In my previous article I talked about how I tend to make choices that are more like myself, and that also means not experiencing a lot of things that other people chose.  I love to see why people choose different choices especially concerning factional, emotional, or moral matters.

I also like to hear where they wandered off to and what side areas and quests I didn’t see.  I purposely only do quests and side quests I truly run into on my own to make it more of a personal experience (unless I desperately need an upgrade or something), and so hearing of other’s exploits and adventures makes theirs even more unique.  Like, hearing a friend run into a legendary monster that I never knew about is so cool.  Them talking about some secret loot from it and what it was like is such a fun experience.  We’ve both played the game, but their treasures are all different.

This is a little harder to do with open world games where quests and areas are more laid out for you.   In Assassin’s Creed: Origins I ended up going to nearly, if not all, the markers on the map.  It didn’t feel very unique.  I was just checking off a list of things to do.  Every once in a while I’d run into something unique that made me smile, laugh, or be in awe.  I found the things that really hit that single player adventure spot were those few things that I ran into that were unmarked, or events that happened due to certain sandbox-based natural events.  

Guild Wars 2 kind of hits that same note, even though it’s an MMO.  MMOs are a little less like the nature of long wanderers together because of obvious reasons.  However, the way the game’s event based quests and renown hearts work, you can always just run into people and work together to fight some map boss or help a town of NPCs out.  Immediately after, we say thanks or share a cheer, and then off we are back again on our own adventures.  

Single player games offer that weird feeling of being back at base, and everyone shares their experiences and loot.  I hear their stories and I get amped up to go on another adventure.  In a weird way, I don’t feel alone in a single player experience, because we’re all on this smattering of timelines in our own worlds and I can hear what happened with them.  I know this is ironic because I don’t talk to a lot of people in general, but still.  All of this becomes more and more exciting as system based games like Dishonored and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild take shape.  They need not be super open world, but their dynamic systems allow for unique experiences that I continue to be amazed at or laugh at.  

It reminds me of times being united with gamers playing Super Mario World or other older single player games of the olden days.  We were all together because we all went on the same adventure, but when we reunite we all tell differing tales.  

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

Elise

To Play a Game

Getting lost in getting lost

ANNOUNCEMENT: I’m going to try and post more regularly now, but the posts will focus less on game design and more like a blog for me as a gamer.  I understand if this is less interesting or too different and if you don’t want to continue following that is fine.  Okay, on to the article.

There were a couple times in the past year where I realized I wasn’t really having fun playing a game.  I lost the whole point of playing games.  I wasn’t enjoying my time.  

There are a lot of different reasons to play video games, and honestly, I don’t think joy has to be one of them, but I wasn’t feeling any of those good reasons.  Due to mental health, sometimes I just play because I want to zone out or fend off some ill feelings.  Sometimes I am trying to get an achievement, and it’s not surprising that times like that are actually more frustrating than enjoyable, but it has a good purpose.  Sometimes I am just hanging out with friends while other times I want something where I can put my all, like Cataclysm mode in Warhammer: Vermintide II.  

And then there are times where I’m playing and I’m thinking, “Why am I doing this at all?”  Why am I spending time gathering herbs or searching for resources that I will then deposit into my bank and I will never ever use them because I am a hoarder?  I sometimes think of the lapse of time that goes through as I do menial tasks.   I admit I also find myself skeletonizing my tasks and thinking, is this all a waste of time?  It feels like the same thing as “game x”.  This can occur  on some of my favorite games as well.

Perhaps it’s my depression, or I really am just out of it, because those same moments can be reversed.  The best cure I’ve found for these moments is just…to stop caring about time.  I have such a hard time relaxing.  It really seems like a skill for me because I always have to think about progress or productivity.  I miss the days when I could sit on a chair in Maplestory and just chat with friends about random stuff.

Not too long ago I was playing Fallout 4 and I kept glancing at my phone because I had an early work meeting and all I could think of was, “Am I going to get enough sleep?  How much more can I squeeze in?”  Going through a tower full of raiders was not as exciting as it was when all I could think of was being productive with my time in a game that is known for being a time sink.  It took a while but I had to really let myself go and not think about time.  And soon I was  just having fun mowing down raiders.  It is really unfortunate that the culture of productivity dug its claws so deep into my life that it entered into the realm of my video game experience.  I would not be surprised if you, as a gamer, have felt that same dreadful feeling.

I find that not only do I perform well, but I also enjoy myself more when I let go of time.  The same kind of fun I had when I was a tiny child playing Goldeneye 007 on the N64 and we just…straight up played.  Sitting on the ground or a couch playing Super Mario World over and over and over again.  Or when I spent so much time just wandering around in Morrowind, sometimes just to see the sights.  I miss those times, and I feel the closest thing I can do to bringing back those times I played just to play is to stop worrying about time.  Either that or play with close friends or siblings.  Those times can get rambunctious and super fun.  

However, these days most of the time I play single player games, and because I spread my interests so thin, I always believe I need to be productive with my time.  In the end, I think the most productive and best use of my time is to just…play for fun again.  Not to worry about time and just…do what you’re supposed to do when you play a game and just get into it.  I hope that we don’t forget that passion that we had as gamers when we just played for fun or without regard to time.  We just let ourselves get lost in a different world.  And it was good.

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.