My 2017 as Told by Nine Games

Video games have been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. They are more to me than just something to while away the time. They become methods for me to become close with those I can call friends. They become markers of my life, each game capturing the essence of the time I was going through. They fill the moments between one crisis and the next.

2017 has been a big year for me. I dropped out of college and, a semester later, enrolled to a completely different one. I started to learn to live with the Hell that’s been growing in my head. I’m still learning, but I think I’ve figured out how to relax and let things go. It’s altogether a much better year than 2016, which I only allude to vaguely in my 2016 list of games that have impacted me.

I don’t write retrospectives much. My memory is a foggy place that constantly rebuilds itself. But, this year especially, video games become a landmark in that fog. So here’s my 2017, as told by the games I’ve played. Mind, it’s a very personal list. Continue reading “My 2017 as Told by Nine Games”

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Five games I tell my potential significant other to play to get a feel of who I am

So a couple of months ago there was a thing going on where you tweet “Five games you tell your potential significant other to play to get a feel of who you are?” I tweeted this in response to that question,

And today I thought, heck, why not elaborate? It’s not like I’m going to get a significant other so soon that he’ll read this post, heh. My Game of the Year list isn’t until January either.

So let’s begin with the most unquestionable part of the list, Continue reading “Five games I tell my potential significant other to play to get a feel of who I am”

The Twin Horrors

Writing non-fiction is a struggle between brevity and flow. You have these sets of facts you want to present, and you want to tell people how they’re connected. It’ll be so easy to just put them as bullet points and write the conclusion underneath. You get the facts, you get why they’re being written down, easy. But writing demands so much more.

People don’t want facts, they want stories. People don’t want dry numbers, they want someone to tell them how the numbers combine. So you stitch those facts together to a narrative, to long strands of words, sentences, paragraphs. How do I put these facts together? Will people lost the connection (or, God forbid, the interest?) if I put them next to each other. Oh no no no, these two facts look unrelated. They are related, but they don’t flow into each other when you’re reading it.

And all of a sudden your writing is 80% fluff, with the facts only strewn over it. All of a sudden it’ll take people ten times as much time to read through it. You realise with horror that you’re wasting people’s time. You’re wasting people’s attention. This is bad writing no matter how you put it.

You sigh for the hundredth time and start to rewrite the whole thing.

A Canvas for Their Brand

I wrote this story for a literature event in my school, under the title We Watch from Under Your Skin, because I forgot about this entirely better temp title. The theme of the event was “Neocolonialism” although I think what I’m writing isn’t the neocolonialism they were expecting, heh.

It’s really more a snapshot of a world than an actual story, but I hope it’s a good snapshot nonetheless.


A Canvas for Their Brand

It was dark.

There was no moon in the sky, no stars. He could vaguely make out the shape of buildings around him, had the sense that he was in the middle of the street in the middle of the city. None of the street lights were on, none of the windows were lit. The road was big and empty and quiet, not a single car buzzing through it. He knew the streets, he realised. He had gone through it a hundred times in his life, and yet nothing was familiar. Not in the dark.

And then, in a corner, near an alley he’d never minded, he saw a spark. Continue reading “A Canvas for Their Brand”

What Games Get Right about Getting Egypt Wrong – A response piece

Waypoint recently published an article titled What Games Get So Wrong About Egypt, ‘Assassin’s Creed Origins’ Gets Right, dealing mostly with how many games, as any other media, exoticises Ancient Egypt, and the East in general, to the point it erases their real life culture. I agree that this is happening and that we definitely need more games (and stories in other media) to stop relying on caricatures that the West had made and start telling these cultures as they are in real life.

I just have problems with how the writer nitpicks on a couple of games. Sure, we need better representation in more games, but that doesn’t mean that some of these games are doing it wrong. Continue reading “What Games Get Right about Getting Egypt Wrong – A response piece”

Life Made Out of Ashes

Musings on the audio-visual of NieR Automata, a video game.

I’m not a fan games with high-quality graphic. Playing Assassin’s Creed, for example, is exhausting even for a short while. Took me a while to realise that the feelings I get when I play AAA games is similar to how I feel when I’m outside, walking in a busy city with too many noises coming from all direction, too many people about, too many things to see. I can’t take in all these little things, yet my brain just kind of  force myself to take them in anyway? It’s tiring. And the same things happens when I play modern games.

So avoided AAA games on principle, and any game that boasts a huge world or detailed graphic. Games that populate their worlds with little intricate details might well make them more lively for some people, but they only drives me mad. I can appreciate them in a good screenshot, but I know I can’t play them in motion.

A week ago, on a ridiculous whim, I started playing NieR Automata.

Automata is an odd game, aesthetically. If you only look at its screenshots, it’s not very pleasing to look at. Washed out colours. Dull atmosphere. It’s set in an earth that’s long destroyed and abandoned. The environment is basically ash, dust, and rust. Even the plant life looks greyed out.

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I love it. Continue reading “Life Made Out of Ashes”

A Game that Wrecks Itself

Drakengard is a pretty awful game. The gameplay is a boring mess hacked together, the music is an absolute cacophony, the story is told in so haphazard a manner. Basically, it’s a bloody mess.

Drakengard is such a fantastic game, if only because it is a bloody mess. The gameplay is a repetitive fight through waves of enemy, because the story is about someone fighting through waves of enemy, again and again and again. The music is a chaotic blend of orchestral pieces, because war is always so chaotic, so messy. It destroys whatever sense of calm orchestral music can have.

The story is a simple Rescue the Princess and One Against the Empire, if you look at it through a whole, but it twists it around. You’re not the hero. Caim, the main character, just want to kill everyone. You, the player, just want to get past this, get to the next scene, and see what happens next. The reward is never worth it. A short conversation. A fragmented lore haphazardly thrown about with no sense of narrative to tie them together.

It’s not a pleasant game to play. It’s not meant to be a pleasant game to play. It makes you feel awful, because it’s designed that way. Its levels are long and dragged on, because it’s meant to be long, meant to drag on and on. After a while killing people become so rote. What do you expect out of it? What do you think you’re doing? Saving the world?

Drakengard is such an awful game and yet it’s so good at what it does. I have no idea how it manages to spawn sequels, considering how narrow its target audience is. It’s a good thing that the other games touch on different things, I suppose. Different ways to make you uncomfortable. And you know what, I’m glad there are games that make uncomfortable in these ways.

On Morbidity and Madness

Mad ramblings about a visual novel.

Doki Doki Literature Club is a pleasant little visual novel made by the three-man-band Team Salvato. It’s about being in a literature club in school, where you hang out with cute girls and exchange poems with them. It’s very much a slice-of-life. Its romance elements don’t come out too forward, so it’s enjoyable even to those who aren’t into dating sims. I particularly like how it highlights the role of literature, and how it uses this theme to convey its characters.

It’s available for free, so I don’t see what’s stopping you from just trying it out. Even if visual novels aren’t your thing, it’s definitely worth checking out.

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Warning: This game is not suitable for children or those who are easily disturbed.

Continue reading “On Morbidity and Madness”

The Reclaimed

“Death is no excuse to stop working.”

I wrote this in two sittings for a four-days writing challenge from my college club.


The Reclaimed

 

Miriam was not particularly known for her kindness. She scowled often, she glared at all the kids who came by her house. She lived alone in a small house surrounded by camellias, and only her more observant neighbours knew that she had one child, a daughter, who visited her every other weekend. Miriam was old, older than most people would guess, but she looked much younger. Or would have, if she smiled, which was not a thing that she did. Every morning, Miriam would go outside to water her plants, and then she’d sit on her porch, either reading or weaving one of those intricate quilts people had seen decorating her windows. Continue reading “The Reclaimed”

Wearing My Name

I just found out that the protagonist of Inkle’s upcoming game, Heaven’s Vault, is named Aliya Elasra. It’s the first time I’ve seen a character with the same name as me in a western fiction, or any fiction really, and it made me smile.

My name is Aliya. You will not believe how odd and difficult that sentence sound to me. I’ve never been very comfortable with the name, and it took me a long time to accept that, yeah, that’s my name. My family called me by nicknames when I was a kid, and as a kid in a close-knitted family, I wasn’t in a habit of introducing myself. So the first time, the first memory I have of “owning” the name was in grade school, when we first get to introduce myself.

I didn’t know how. It felt weird to tell them the nickname my family used, so I just stick with the first word in my name. Aliya. It didn’t feel particularly mine. I just grabbed it off the full name I was taught was mine. So, okay. That’s what you call me, I guess.
Continue reading “Wearing My Name”