While the post-holiday game release drought seems like it's getting shorter and shorter every year, I feel like it doesn't provide enough time to catch up on big name titles from the previous year as it used to. Thankfully, even in the midst of the fantastic games we've already seen in 2017, not to mention the fact that the Nintendo Switch and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is happening this very morning, some of the games I wanted to squeeze in were smaller indie titles that I actually have been able to make time for.
One of these was a little gem by the name of Virginia. If you're not familiar with it, it's a narrative-focused, walking simulator-like game similar to something like Gone Home. Sporting a not-quite-cell-shaded visual style and a complete lack of dialogue, I was very interested in giving it a try and seeing how it compared not just to Gone Home, but also Firewatch, which regular readers of this site may remember as a game I had some pretty big issues with when I played it last June. I'm in the minority with my opinions on that game, but I appreciated what it was trying to achieve and was hoping for at least a similar experience from Virginia.
Continue reading Virginia, Where Less Is More
Rabble rabble rabble, 2016 was a dumpster fire of a year and I'm glad that it's over.
Ok, now that I've gotten that out of my system, I'd rather focus on the positive, because the fact of the matter is that on a personal level, 2016 was actually a pretty great year for me. Not perfect, of course, but one in which I did some travelling, including a nice long vacation to see some family in Phoenix I haven't seen in years, and some road trips for concerts and other things. I had an unexpected career change that has so far turned out to be a wise and vindicating move. I was able to find the time to read a lot more in 2016, which is definitely my other great love aside from games. And finally, I bought a nice, new gaming PC and have been loving falling victim to more Steam sales just to see what games I already own look like on a big, beautiful monitor. I didn't get nearly enough time in for gaming as I was hoping for this year (as I seem to say every January these days), but continuing the trend from 2015, there were a ton of fantastic games released in the last 12 months. As I look over the list of games I had the most fun with this year, there's plenty of older titles not listed here that I only just recently discovered for the first time, and even more that I hope to catch up with in the next few months.
The last thing I think is important to mention is that 2016 was, at least for me, the year VR finally sold me. The software is still trying to catch up a bit in terms of making fun, compelling, long-term experiences, and the high price point isn't quite enough to make me shell out for anything more than a Gear VR just yet. However, between my own limited experience and what I've heard and seen from people I've come to trust, the concept of VR in 2016 is finally coming together. It truly can be as immersive and believable as people say, all we need now is that killer piece of software and a tad more affordability to bring it all together, and I can't wait to see where things go from there. So without further ado, let's celebrate some great games!
Continue reading My Top 10 Games of 2016
My friend's Nintendo Christmas tree. I'm more than a little jealous.
Like many of us, I've had a lot to think about in 2016 that hasn't been entirely pleasant. On top of any personal circumstances some may have had to deal with, there's been enough divisiveness and controversy on a macro level throughout the year, and particularly in the last month, to make anyone's head spin. I have no interest in bringing all that negativity to this community, but I feel I'd be remiss if I didn't at least acknowledge the fact that it's affected me deeply recently, to the point where I had a hard time getting into a proper head space to decide what I wanted to write about this month.
Fortunately, and what shouldn't have been surprising, I eventually realized that once I stopped looking back at what couldn't be changed and started looking forward to the weeks ahead, an appropriate topic was staring me right in the face. It's December now, and with that comes holiday sales, time with friends and family, and hopefully for most of us, some time off from work or school to spend gaming. Whether it's trying out a newly acquired gift we weren't expecting, or finally breaking into that special game we've been dying to try out (you know the one I mean; that gift from you, to you for being so good this year), this is a great time to purge the negativity from the rest of the year, recharge the ole mental batteries, and think back on some of the best holiday memories of year's past.
Continue reading Holiday Stories to Bring Us Together
From the Double Fine website
I'm cheating a bit with this entry, both because Halloween is over, and because I've chosen to highlight a game that isn't a typical spooky game in the traditional sense. But I think I'm justified in doing so since before we know it, we'll be drowning in Christmas decorations and muzak carols. I'm not quite ready to let Halloween go just yet.
As we grow up, most of us either decide we don't like scary things and avoid them as much as possible, or can't get enough and watch all the horror movies we can get our hands on. That's all well and good; I love a well done horror flick or game as much as the next person. However, when I think of Halloween, some of my favorite memories of this fall holiday have come not in adulthood, but from my youth, when the most important things in my life were the costumes and candy.
Continue reading Spooky Plays: Costume Quest
There's just something about going to a live event that's special. Seeing so many people gather with friends and strangers alike to share their passions, and seeing those passions take shape in all sorts of fun, creative ways, is powerful. It's encouraging and uplifting to be able to step away from the all-too-common toxicity of the internet at large to see the best of what a fan base can be. This is even better when the event is local. I've traveled to shows and expos in the past, and while that's fun and carries with it an added layer of traveling adventure, it can also get expensive. A local event gets you all the excellence of a good con without the potentially prohibitive cost of a flight, gas, and/or hotel room.
So it's with this in mind that I'm going to break from the norm and hold off on writing an October/Halloween post for the time being. Instead, I wanted to share my experience at the 2nd annual Cleveland Pinball and Arcade Show I attended a couple weeks ago. I went to the first CLEPIN as well, and I'm happy to say there were some fantastic tables on display this year, making for an even better show than in 2015.
Continue reading Keep the Pumpkin Spice, I'll Fill my Fall With Pinball
From the SquareEnix press site
With the release of Final Fantasy XV a mere handful of weeks away, I should be getting more and more excited. I should be devouring every trailer and screenshot with abandon, but I'm not. Instead of squeeing at the thought of a new massive RPG from SquareEnix's flagship franchise like a 14-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, I find myself caring less and less, to the point where I probably won't even play the new game. It's disappointing, and has had me thinking for a while now about other times this has happened to me.
Continue reading Final Fantasy, We Need to Talk....Call Me
Photo from IMDB
With the summer movie season in full swing, and the fairly recent announcement that Wreck-It Ralph will be getting a sequel, I thought it would a fun time to look back on some of the best examples of the oft-forgotten genre (if one could even call it its own genre) of video game movies. My hope is to provide a fond look back for those of us who've seen some of these, and for those who haven't, or for some of the younger crowd who may not have stumbled upon the older ones, to give some good recommendations.
Now to be clear, I'm not referring to films based on games, so you'll not see Prince of Persia, Mortal Kombat, Final Fantasy: Advent Children, or even the recent Warcraft highlighted here. I'm also not referring to documentaries like IndieGame: The Movie (even though that is really great and everyone should watch it). What you'll find here instead are a handful of films that use video games merely as a backdrop, providing a fun digital setting to tell an underlying story unrelated to any actual video game plot. They're presented here in no particular order, and I'm sure there are others out there I've overlooked, so I'd love to hear which of these you liked, hated, or if you have recommendations of your own. Speak up in the comments and let us know.
Continue reading It's Summer, and That Means Movie Time!
Even though this piece won't post until a couple weeks after Father's Day, as I type it up, I'm on a plane with my father and my stepmother this holiday weekend, off to sunny Arizona for a vacation with them and some family we have there. It got me thinking a lot about how my dad has influenced my favorite hobby over the years, especially since only a few months prior I was able to share with him what may be the most surreal and personally moving gaming experience I've ever had.
I wasn't exactly surprised when the retro barcade opened up in my hometown about a year or so ago. In fact, I was surprised it had taken so long. In the last decade or so, with the explosion of geek culture and the proliferation of nerdy being the new cool, barcades seem to have sprung up all over the country ready to pander to both the crowd looking to reconnect with their youth, as well as the college crowd riding the wave of gaming as the next "in thing."
It was during my first trip to this barcade when I saw a machine that completely blew me away in a fit of unexpected nostalgia, even in the midst of so many arcade games I played growing up. Walking into the 16-Bit Bar+Arcade in Lakewood, OH, just west of Cleveland, most of what I saw there was welcome but unsurprising. Upon seeing a particular cabinet, however, everything else around me faded away like one of those flashback triggers in movies where the camera zooms in on the character and they get taken back to their childhood. In my case, I fell back to a memory of my dad, a long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away.
Continue reading Father's Day in a Galaxy Far Far Away
One of the most interesting and recent evolutions of the adventure game genre is what many have dubbed the "walking simulator." In a similar way to visual novel games like 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and Danganronpa, their minimalist approach to gameplay and action allow the story to become the primary focus. Despite claims from some that these are not "games" in the traditional sense, the fact that we've benefitted from some excellent story telling from this space in recent years can't be denied.
Three of the best walking simulators in the past few years are Gone Home, Life is Strange, and the debut game from Campo Santo, Firewatch. I've just come off playing the latter two in fairly close succession, and boy have I been having a lot of thoughts about them lately. I had high hopes going into Firewatch, as the developers have some serious pedigree both in games media and production. Unfortunately, right from the start I found myself struggling to connect with the characters and had trouble reconciling the story it seemed to want to tell, the choices I was being given, and where I expected things to go. This continued throughout the game, and I was ultimately unsatisfied and conflicted.
**Be warned: there be spoilers ahead! But if you're interested in this game, it's only about five hours long so it won't be hard to play it through and come back**
Continue reading Firewatch - A Lesson in Wanting to Like Something