Play for the Story, Not the Game

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday everyone!

The narrative and storytelling techniques in video games are generally a big factor in whether or not I enjoy said video games. In fact, there are definitely some games where I enjoy the story more than the gameplay itself. 

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I am a writer. Not just of blog posts, but also of stories, short ones and novels alike. As such, I’m always interested in the narratives of video games I play. I love to devour a game’s story just as much as I love to devour a good book.

With that said, there are a good handle of games that I would be perfectly happy with reading like a novel. I play these games for the story and the characters rather than the gameplay itself. Sure, the gameplay mechanics may be amazing, but if the story has snagged my attention, the gameplay is always going to be second fiddle. Fantastic gameplay mechanics will not redeem a game with a dull story line in my eyes.

Take Undertale and Deltarune, for example. There is so much lore and theories behind the developed stories of these games. Especially in Undertale’s case, there are multiple ways you can take the story through your actions, whether or not you decide to do a peaceful or violent run-through of the game. And if you played it through a second time? There are characters that remember your first playthrough. There are characters that remember if you killed them before. I didn’t care much for the game’s battle mechanics, but I continued to play it to see how the story ended.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia is another example. War and faith are the general themes of the story, like many Fire Emblem games, but I was intrigued by the characters and definitely impressed with the voice acting. It was enough to keep me playing until the end, even though I found some of the battles repetitive and the dungeon sequences unappealing.

The most recent game we played through was Gris and we went into it knowing that it was a game with minimal enemies (if any at all). I picked it up first for it’s gorgeous art and stayed for the music and haunting narrative of trying to figure out the main character was searching for. My sister and I both teared up at the end once we realized how heavy and bittersweet the story was.

Thinking on all of this, it’s no wonder that I’ve gotten a newfound appreciation for visual novels and simulation games.

How important is story to you in games? Or do you prefer amazing gameplay to the story? Let me know in the comments below! If you liked this post, please share it around.

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Reality is Broken

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday, everyone!

It’s the end of the first month of 2018. I hope you’re all doing well and that everything has been working in your favor so far. Here’s to the rest of the year!

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A book I’ve been reading lately is Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal. It depicts why video games are important in today’s society and how they aid us in being happy and fulfilled with our lives. While the book was published in 2011 and, thus, is a little out of date at this time, it has made me think about my love of games.

Think about why you play video games. Is it because of the challenge of saving the world? The relaxing atmosphere of caring for a virtual town? The social aspect of online video games? No matter your reasons, you wouldn’t be playing video games if you didn’t enjoy them.

There’s a particular quote near the beginning of the book that McGonigal put in from Brian Sutton-Smith, a psychologist of play: “The opposite of play isn’t work. It’s depression.”

Depression often gives people a sense of inadequacy and a despondent lack of activity. Games, on the other hand, give us a sense of being able to overcome obstacles, an endorphin rush when we focus on our energy on achieving a goal. By gaming, we’re focusing on an activity that we’re good at and enjoy.

In other words, McGonigal claims, “gameplay is the direct emotional opposite of depression.”

The key ideas of being happy include satisfying work, the experience or hope of being successful, social connection, and meaning, or “the chance to be part of something larger than ourselves.” Gaming gives us all of that. Rather than using games as a way to escape reality, gamers are actively making their real lives more rewarding by playing.

I’ll be honest. My day job is not at all what I want it to be. It’s stifling and not creative at all, in my opinion. Sure, my co-workers are fantastic and the job itself pays well with good benefits, but it feels like more of a chore than anything else. I’m working there to survive, not to live.

Reading this book just kind of made everything click into place. Video games were always a way for me to help save the world and pour my creativity into, such as writing a blog about gaming. I’ve met some wonderful people along the way, and gaming has opened up a few connections that I never would have had otherwise. It’s rather amazing to think about, isn’t it?

Have you read this book? What made you start to play video games?

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1-2 Switch Game Review

onetwoswitchTitle: 1-2 Switch
Company: Nintendo
Console:
Nintendo Switch
Release Date:
March 3, 2017
How we got the game:
We bought it.

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1-2 Switch was probably one the games that we were most iffy about when it appeared in the lineup launch for the new Nintendo Switch. It definitely looked interesting enough to try, along with the technology that was rumored to be packed into the little joy-cons. So we picked it up and it was better than we thought!

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We weren’t sure if the price was going to be worth it, but after watching some playthroughs of the game on YouTube, we just had to give it a go.

gameplay

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1-2 Switch is a collection of mini-games, most of them lasting about 30 seconds or so. There are games based on timing, motion, rhythm, and other gimmicks that show off the capabilities of the Nintendo Switch console, particularly the Joy-Cons.

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Each game is unique in its own individual way. Sometimes you each need a Joy-Con, other times you both share the one Joy-Con. Sometimes you need the wrist straps and other times you’re placing the Joy-Con on the ground. Sometimes the Joy-Con simply vibrates to indicate something to you or it feels like soda bubbles getting ready to explode. The Joy-Cons are actually really amazing little things.

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The most impressive aspect of the game play were the Joy-Con themselves. I was geeking out over how much technology is packed into those little things! One of the best mini games that showcased this technology was the Ball Count game, where it feels as if there are a few little marbles rolling around inside the controller.

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It’s hard to explain and definitely something everyone should try for themselves. The other games we have (so far) don’t do the Joy-Cons justice. There were a wide variety of games where you had to run, sit and solve a puzzle with the Joy-Con, pass the Joy-Con around the room, and much more. Even though there are only 28 games, it gave a decent variety of things to do.

graphics-music

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Each mini-game had its own graphics and music, none of which were bad but also not particularly memorable because of how short the games are. The mini games had real people demonstrating how to play the games in little instructional videos, and the actors were… well, they were very enthusiastic at times…

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The main point of 1-2 Switch is that you’re not looking at the TV screen. So, the graphics aren’t memorable because you’re not supposed to be looking at them. And that also makes me wonder if they really tried with them because they knew people wouldn’t pay attention. The music is good and catchy, but of course you’re playing with other people so you just end up shouting over the music anyway. As for those videos… I would definitely prefer a voice-over to just tell me how to play the game.

replay-value

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This is a cute, quick game to play at a party with friends. It’s simple enough for even those friends who aren’t used to video games at all to pick up and have a good time with. However, I believe the game would be more worth it if it’s on sale or, if down the line, it gets a free patch or download to add more mini games to its library. 1-2 Switch is definitely fun but probably would have worked better had it been bundled with the console itself.

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For 28 quick games, is it worth the $50? Probably not. For the amount of fun and laughs you’ll have with your friends, is the price worth it? I think so. I can’t wait to invite some of my friends over and throw a Joy-Con in their hand and watch them look like dopes trying to eat as many invisible sandwiches as they can. I know the point of this game is to go out and have fun with friends, but that’s also the downside of it. I can see myself getting in the mood to play it, but I won’t be able to because Kris won’t be home or she won’t want to play. I can also see some of the mini-games getting old pretty fast.

1-2 Switch gets…
Video game review: 3 Lives3 out of 5 lives.

Have you played this game? What did you think? Let us know in the comments! 

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First Impressions: Pokemon Moon

Double Jump Kris MiiHappy Monday, all! For those of you who celebrate it, Christmas is right around the corner! Are you all ready for it?

… I’m not. At all. So, let’s procrastinate more on getting ready for the holiday and talk about Pokemon!

As the latest installments of the franchise, Pokemon Sun and Moon threw aside the old Pokemon formula. Rather than exploring a new region while beating up Evil Team of the Week with your new Pokemon partners, we have a new region of islands with a dorky team of antagonists with new Pokemon partners.

Yes, of course, there’s more to the new games, and I am enjoying them.

Before Sun and Moon, we’d travel throughout the region in a fairly linear fashion to defeat a series of eight gyms. The Alolan islands of Sun and Moon have four kahunas rather than gym leaders, coupled with captains of trials that generally end with a battle against a powered-up version of a Pokemon of the captain’s preferred type. The islands themselves seem to be vast and it’s been great exploring them to see what they have to offer in terms of Pokemon and secrets. Like the previous games, though, it is pretty linear, often having NPCs with riding Pokemon (which I have so much fun with) blocking out areas with flimsy excuses until you complete whatever task the game wants you to. Yet, there seems to be enough to discover to compensate the bit of frustration I get whenever an NPC gets in my way.

While trials are a refreshing take on the whole gym formula, I do miss the epic, tougher battles with gym leaders. The trials I’ve completed through the second island were interesting, of course, but simple. There are plenty of trainers and the Exp. Share item to keep your Pokemon’s levels on par with the Totem Pokemon, if not at a higher level, that the end of the trail battle just seems lackluster (especially when my Pokemon knocks out the Totem Pokemon in one hit). Perhaps there will be more challenging battles on the next few islands or I’m just that good of a Pokemon Master.

I am greatly enjoying the visuals and music! I’m playing Moon, so it’s 12-hours behind Sun, granting me these gorgeous scenes of starry nights and bright fires and dark waters of the sea. The music, like in most Pokemon games, is fantastic and I was excited to learn that the soundtrack is available on iTunes.

All of the characters seem great (except… well, I’m a little crept out by our avatar’s perpetually smiling face… am I alone in this?), and the dorks in Team Skull are quickly becoming some of my favorite antagonists. Your friend Hau is adorable and I’m invested in Lillie’s backstory and what’s going on with her and Nebby. The captains and kahunas so far are all diverse and interesting as well.

These were just some of my initial thoughts thus far on the game. What about you? Without spoiling much of the story, as I’m only to the second island, what do you all think of your experiences in Pokemon Sun and Moon?

Who Needs a Map?

Double Jump Kris MiiTo those of you who celebrate it, happy Halloween! I hope everyone gets lots of treats, pulls off awesome tricks, and stays safe during this holiday!

Considering that scary games, movies, and books aren’t my thing, this post has absolutely nothing to do with Halloween, haha!

One of the most anticipated games that will come out next year is Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and one of the earliest aspects of the story that we heard about was the fact that you can beat the game without completing the story.

The world in the game is enormous and gorgeous, and it’ll be an amazing place to explore. Exploration is one of my favorite elements of any video game, so I’m excited to get lost in this particular version of Hyrule. However, I do also love story lines and character development in video games — those are a couple of reason as to why the Legend of Zelda series trumps the Mario series in my opinion.

So, when I heard about being able to beat Breath of the Wild without finishing the story, I was little… confused, maybe skeptical, perhaps even a bit disappointed. It’s hard to pin down. I enjoy having some directions when it comes to video games, but with plenty of room to explore to my heart’s content. Sure, maps may not be my most used item in games, but it’s nice that it’s there in case I need it (Water Temples, I’m looking at you).

I suppose it’s like the Harvest Moon series. The main point of the game is to revitalize an old farm, but you have free reign to do it however you want. Want to raise just corn? Go for it. Only want cows on your farm? No one said you needed chickens. The latter games in that series that have more goals, such as building up a town or keeping track of market schedules, aren’t my favorites because they give too much direction. The earlier games, like More Friends of Mineral Town, are my go-to versions of the series.

What about you? Do you prefer games that are linear or more free with their direction?

 

What’s Wrong with Gamers?

Rachel Mii Double JumpHi, guys.

I’ve been playing video games for most of my life. Yet, it’s always an awkward conversation when I tell someone for the first time that I play video games.

Is it because I’m a girl? Is it because some people see video games as a waste of time? I’m not really sure…

I grew up watching Kris play video games because she grew up watching my uncle play. I started playing myself, with Kris, even though I was young and didn’t really know what I was doing.

Seriously, in Mario Kart I would just drive around in circles laughing hysterically as though I was actually accomplishing something.

I play all the popular games most know and love–Pokemon, the Legend of Zelda, Mario, Sonic (when it used to be pretty good).

Video games are fun for me. I grew up with them, I can’t imagine not playing games. It’s a hobby of mine. Everyone has a hobby, right?

Yet a lot of people give me strange looks because I play video games.

“You’re too young to know half of those games.”
“People who play video games are lazy.”
“Let me guess, you’re going to go home and play your stupid games.”

All those things have been said to me at one point or another.

I already explained to that I grew up playing those games, so even at the age of 22, no, I am not too young to be playing those oldies.

As much as I would like, I do not sit around all day playing video games. I work 8-10 hours a day and then come home and blog and write. I don’t play nearly enough video games as I would like. However, just because I play video games people automatically assume I’m lazy and that’s all I do.

Why is that? I have no idea.

The last comment stung as it was said by a dear co-worker of mine. I’m a teacher and we were breaking for April vacation. We and a few others were chatting about family events, friend get-togethers, and other things we had planned for the week. When I mentioned I didn’t have too many things planned as of that moment, everyone assumed I would just go home, hop into my pajamas, and stay on the couch all week without getting any sunlight.

When, in fact, I didn’t get a chance to even really sit down and play because I ended up going out every day that week.

This post came out to be a bit more rant-like than I expected. But us gamers have to stick together.

Have you ever been made fun of for playing video games?

What Should I Play Next?

Rachel Mii Double JumpHappy Thursday! The weekend is around the corner.

You can never have too many video games, but it’s possible not to have enough.

Have you ever looked at your stack of games and thought, “This is all I have…?”

You walk into the kitchen, scouring the fridge, opening and closing all the cabinets, until you’ve finally searched through the entire room where food would be hiding.

Then you walk into the next room where your Mom is peacefully reading a book and you interrupt her and say, “Mom, I’m hungry. We have no food.”

It doesn’t matter if you can’t fit anything else into the fridge. It doesn’t matter if the cabinet is so full that bags of chips fall out when you open its doors. If you’re not in the mood to eat what you have, then there must be “no food.”

I find video games to act in the same way.

More often than not, Kris and I will decide to play a game together. But there are questions we must ask ourselves first:

1. Should Kris play a one-player game and I watch?
2. Should I play a one-player game and she watches?
3. Should we a one-player game together and just switch the controller back and forth?
4. Should we play a two-player game and actually play together?

Once we have that figured out (which can take a while to decide itself) we take a look at the video games we currently possess.

We have a good amount of games, but we don’t have every single game that’s out.

We look through all the games and our conversation usually goes like this:

“Wanna play this?”
“Nah.”
“How about this?”
“Nope.”
“Oh, we haven’t played this in a while!”
“Eh…”

It’s a problem.

Finally, one of us will eventually cave and say, “Want to go to GameStop?” We will. We’ll make an impulse purchase, and then go home and play the new game.

Sometimes you just have to be in the mood for that one specific game.

How do you decide which game to play next?