Tag Archive for games

Game Review: Wayward Manor

the manorFrom the moment I saw @neilhimself post the Kickstarter of this game on Twitter, I was stoked. Neil Gaiman was making his first game?! Yeah.. I signed up as a backer immediately. With the darkness and imagination inherent in everything he touches, I couldn’t wait. But I did. The game was delayed something like 6 months. I was disappointed, but I was confident it was well worth the wait. Let me tell you that I was not disappointed.

The Look

I’d seen a few pictures on the website *cough* click here *cough* for the art, and it quickly became a motivating factor for me in backing the game. For me, one of Neil Gaiman’s hallmarks is the distinctive look of every world he creates. This was no different. His collaboration with The Odd Gentlemen and Moonshark is a no brainer; it works well.

While it isn’t grown up, per se, it is just disturbing enough to make me hesitate about how old a player might want to be before they play. My 10 year old daughter wouldn’t be afraid of the err… I won’t ruin it for you… but some of her friends would. The game is, after all, told from the perspective of a haunted house desperate for you (his spectral best friend) to rid him of the current inhabitants. People facing their darkest fears is the name of the game which makes the colors, shapes, and clarity very important. In this case, the colors are brilliant and well used, giving the objects a crispness that makes them distinctive, even in very full rooms. It isvery obvious what everything is and where everything is in relation to everything else. This is particularly important when completing levels.

neil himselfThe Play

The game is a storytelling puzzler. You are given a masterfully crafted story (because Neil… duh…) and there are levels in which you (the spectre) must scare various characters using their darkest fears (usually turning their vices against them). They have only so much resilience before they’re scare out of the room. You are given hints, if you need them, by clicking on the stationary “beings” in the room (e.g., ravens, gargoyles, cats, etc.), but the hints aren’t dead giveaways (which I definitely appreciated). No level is overly difficult, but no level is overly easy, either. This makes it worth the mulligans with no pesky raging to ruin the fun. That being said, there was one bug I found that necessitated restarting the level. Once I did (a half a dozen times), I figured out what I was doing wrong (skipping steps, of course) and fixed it. In general, if you can make a move, it is something that is immediately helpful.The game doesn’t let you mess up because it always provides a way out.

As far as controls go, there is nothing other than the mouse to use so it’s more or less intuitive. In order to get the text to move, just click the mouse anywhere (I tried the arrow key as there was an arrow, but no.. just click the mouse). If you can click on something in game, it will have a green essence. The more you scare the characters, the more green objects you have to continue scaring them with. There is nothing tricky about the game except the puzzles. Hallelujah!

paralax6The Sound

As part of the Kickstarter, I opted for the level that included a copy of the soundtrack. SO glad I did. The music is well done, the sounds are appropriate for the game play, and they rarely get annoying (the twins made me want to kick, well, a twin (which is okay, as my brothers happen to be 31 year old twins… I have options). Each character and/or haunt has its own set of ambient and direct sounds but nothing is too abrasive.

Replayability

Here’s the ONLY catch I see to this game. It’s short. I finished it in a few hours (Maybe 3 or 4). That being said, there are 3 achievements called “secret scares” that are available for each level. Once you get the feel of the game, going back through to try to get those wouldn’t be too bad, and the reactions of the characters are entertaining enough to make it worth your time and energy. Undoubtedly, you’ll get some inadvertently during your first run through, but if you’re into achievements at least you have options. Once you open the levels, you can jump right to them, so you don’t have to go ALL the way through the game to get to the desired level if you do decide to give it a go. You can also hold the mouse button to skip cut scenes, so there’s that. Overall, I would say it’s definitely worth the $9.99 on Steam regardless of how many times you obsessively pour over the achievement lists.

The Short Of It

This game is GORGEOUS. The sound is soothing, creepy, and rarely (if ever) grating. The story is a masterfully developed transmedia story, complete with story arc and hero’s journey (I loved the line about the hero’s journey in the game… you’ll see… it’s cute) spanning the website, the game, and YouTube videos done by none other than Neil himself (get it?! @neilhimself … I’m killin’ it today!). This game is worth picking up and telling your friends about. It’s not often you get a well made, engaging, puzzle game by a collection of gifted collaborators. And come on… It’s only $9.99. Preludes and Nocturnes costs more than that!theCast

X-Stream Interactivity

I love streams. I’ve been watching them for a few years now, and I’ve even begun doing research to understand motivations for watching. Plenty of people are making a living at playing games for other people’s entertainment. At any given time, thousands of people are watching Twitch.tv (which is only one of many streaming services available) to see their favorite streamers, games, Major League Gaming (MLG) tournaments, speed runs, and to interact with the communities that accompany them. In the post-modern world of Web 2.0, interactivity reigns and streams are a way for the gaming community to become even closer than before. Look out, mainstream society… the gamers are coming.

Many people watch to support their friends/favorite streamers. Though I watch dozens of streams, I am not an exception to that so I’ll list a few favorites here (in no particular order).

RaggedyAuto A very energetic and happy streamer who loves everyone and all the kawaii things! (18+)

FerretBomb An incredibly intelligent gamer with a love for theory crafting and his community (18+)

Chicken A passionate gamer with a very cool chicken hat. (18+)

UnsanityLive An endearing, charming, funny as hell streamer with a taste for the zaney (18+)

LethalFrag A streamer who prides himself on his community (all ages)

 

 

Hand-held Gaming: An In Depth De-tech-tive Analysis

Digital-Community-Digital-Citizen-Ohler-Jason-9781412971447In his book Digital Community, Digital Citizen, Jason Ohler (2010) presents a way to analyze technology and Digital community, digital citizen media that can help us not only “see” the technology, but understand how it is best used, why we use it, and why it came about in the first place. In this post, I will analyze hand-held game consoles (e.g., PS Vita, WiiU, 3DS, GameBoy, etc.) using the first step in Ohler’s De-tech-tive process; investigate. Though mobile phones are often considered hand-held gaming consoles, I will not be including them in this specific analysis, though most of the “de-tech-ted” concepts apply to them as well. When specific differences arise, I will default to specifically considering the PS Vita (as it is in front of me right now).

Physical Characteristics

Most handheld gaming consoles are small (conducive to being held in hand during play) and made of a combination of metal and plastic. They traditionally have a directional pad, buttons, bumpers, thumbsticks/joysticks, and most recently include touch screens (the Vita has a touch screen on the front and the back of the console). Typically, these handheld consoles are made overseas (e.g., Japan).

Enhancements/Reductions

The-future-of-mobile-and-handheld-gamingUsing the notions of enhancement and reduction as described by McLuhan, I would say that handheld gaming devices amplify our eyes and our fingers. I would also say that our reasoning, reaction time, and attention to detail is amplified. Our ability to multi-task (such as it is) is diminished because of the immersive nature of gaming, and the reduction in space between our faces and the game screen. There is less space for distractions or other tasks to “intrude”.

Predecessors/Future

Handheld gaming consoles replace board games, card games, and toys. Depending on the game being played, they may also replace books, movies, and television. Because of the immersive nature of handheld gaming, I would say the future holds augmented reality games. In fact, some already exist, but the technology continues to develop further and further. Eventually, we will have things like Google glass that doesn’t require us to hold anything, and we can move about in a continual state of gaming reality.

Social Contexts

tumblr_lpaupuEFFU1qzpbdsThe social cues that contributed to the implementation of this technology undoubtedly include boredom and anti-social awkwardness. The inability to go without a stimulus, or the desire (but fear of) social interaction are both resolved to some degree when using handheld gaming consoles. Where things like a long car ride or waiting at the doctor’s office  may facilitate impatience or anxiety, the ability to distract oneself with a game is a relief. Additionally, socially phobic or awkward individuals are able to experience social interactions, and in some cases become more socially adept via connected interactions (Chayko, 2008; Cole & Griffiths, 2007).

Biases

Handheld gaming consoles favor young, socially inhibited, perceptive, motivated, achievement driven, impatient, and/or active/over-active individuals. Because handheld screens are small, those with better eyesight thrive. Additionally, those with quicker reflexes, better joint movement, and more acute perception of surroundings are more successful in-game. Along those lines, gamers are motivated by a variety of things including socialization, achievement, and immersion (Yee, 2006). As such, handheld consoles are biased toward those who are driven by these motivators. Those who have a hard time focusing, sitting still, or enduring stagnant conditions are more likely to play handheld consoles.

Benefits

339918-playstation-vita-vs-nintendo-3ds-which-gaming-handheld-reigns-supremeThe benefits of handheld gaming consoles are entertainment, the development of hand-eye coordination, socialization through connected gameplay, an understanding of social norms and social cue interpretation, and tangential learning in a variety of subjects (e.g., auction houses to learn economics and math, farming to learn resource management, etc.). More subtle benefits that may be overshadowed by arguments against gaming may include staying home rather than loitering or vandalizing places outside the home, a safe environment for the expression of frustration or aggression (e.g., yelling at the game rather than getting into a fight), and becoming immersed in creative worlds which encourage independent and unique participation (e.g., fan fiction role-playing).

Impacts

Handheld gaming consoles, in most cases, allow us to connect to others in-game. they also provide more ways to message (e.g., Skype, instant messaging via gaming networks, etc.). In this way, we are connected to each other, and those we haven’t met before but who have similar interests. However, when we escape into what Chayko (2008) calls our sociomental space, we disconnect from those around us physically. What is happening to/around us “in real life” becomes second to what is happening in our immersed state.

Handheld gaming consoles allow for the benefits of video game play, while providing convenient and consistent access. Understanding the uses for, benefits of, and challenges with handheld gaming consoles, may help us specifically target behaviors to either be replicated or extinguished. This is a technology which should be accepted and embraced, so long as it can be managed and used in functional and positive ways.

Nintendo_3DS_and_PS_Vita

References:

Chayko, M. (2008). Portable communities : the social dynamics of online and mobile connectedness. Albany: SUNY.

Cole, H., & Griffiths, M. D. (2007). Social Interactions in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Gamers. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 10(4), 575–583. doi:10.1089/cpb.2007.9988

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Corwin Press.

Yee, N. (2006). Motivations for play in online games. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 9(6), 772–775. Retrieved from http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/cpb.2006.9.772

The Greatest NES Collection of All-Time

I love NES gaming and have since we got our NES in 1986. In retrospect, I wish I’d begged my mom to keep our system, but hindsight and all that. But I digress. This collection is amazing. I WISH I had something bad ass like this. Since I don’t, join me in a little nostalgic vicarious living.