Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A 3-part Blog: Life Without Television / On Hallowe'en / On Horror Games

At a loss for any coherent topic, I'm splitting this blog 3 ways (also I forgot October's entry, so there.)

Part 1: Life is Better Without Television (but not without video games)

Seriously, it is. Try it.

Living at university in my 10x10 bunker/hole in the ground, I have very little contact with any technology apart from my cell phone (which is not a smartphone) and my laptop. I do not have a TV, and ss such I have had zero contact with television programming since I moved in.

I thought I'd miss it but then I realized there was nothing good on TV anyways, so I've found other ways to waste my time. Other just-as-unproductive but less stressful ways. There's anyways something "on" on the internet! There are a lot of interesting people on the internet too- interesting in a good way as in they're funny or entertaining, not interesting in a "trainwreck, can't look away" or "Why would you DO that?" kind of way.

But without TV I have no video games which, although a petty complaint, is still kind of hindering to my creativity. I write best when I'm gaming. And more habitual gamers will attest to the "game craving" phenomenon where you get a wicked jones to play a particular game that only worsens when you can't. Unfortunately this has been compounded by my habit of watching livestreams and walkthroughs of games I haven't played yet...agh. Oh well.

Part 2: On Hallowe'en

I might be too old for trick-or-treating, but I still went out collecting stuff this Hallowe'en, and let me tell you it was awesome! (Yes, I spell it with the apostrophe, it's technically an abbreviation.)

I was part of a volunteer dealy called Trick-Or-Eat, where a bunch of students from my university went out and collected canned and non-perishable stuff for the local food bank. Even though toting around bags full of cans is a touch painful, we managed to collect ("we" being the small sub-group of 4 I was with) a shopping cart full of stuff. Multiplied by the 6 sub-groups in our team, multiplied by the teams consisting of hundreds of university students, I think we did alright.

It's definitely something I would recommend doing, especially for teens who are a touch sore at losing the cute-factor that let them trick-or-treat in the first place (or those who don't want to get stuck handing out candy). Going door to door in costume in the dark of night was still as appealing as it's ever been.

And also Happy Day of the Dead to my readers south of the border (and to those who celebrate anyways)! I think Dia de los Muertos is something we should celebrate in Canada, I mean, it's just so cool! It's an actual celebration of the lives of those past with a cheerfully mock-morbid spin! I love it! There's a kind of day fo the dead in Buddhism called Obon, but it's not nearly as exciting as Dia de los Muertos.

Part 3: On Horror Games

Ok so....Horror games....I'm not a huge player of horror games but I do enjoy watching others play them. (See above for my livestream habit.) Anyways. I was watching a really neat livestream of an indie Horror/Adventure game called Decay. Now, it was a pretty restrained little game, more about atmosphere and a few jump-scares with the story built mostly through props and text with a few cutscenes.

I won't spoil anything but I will warn prospective players; Part 4 of Decay was a huge letdown. I didn't even see the end, I seriously couldn't sit through it. Puzzles have always been a part of horror games, that I can accept. Whether they're obscure fetch-quest type "puzzles" like in Silent Hill and Resident Evil, or your typical slidey-block picture puzzle, or number/logic puzzles like in Fatal Frame, they're there and they probably always will be. That's ok!

When your horror game becomes nothing BUT puzzles, it ceases to be scary, entertaining and enjoyable all at once with an almost audible CLUNK. This was the problem with Decay Part 4; it was one puzzle after another after another after another, all increasing in ridiculousness, arbitrarity and difficulty. And none of them really even fit with the feel of the first 3 parts of the game!

I suspect there was a change of developer somewhere between parts 3 and 4. The first 3 parts all took place within the same building, the same few rooms with similar kinds of puzzles. There was a minigame here or there but most of them were logic puzzles that spanned the entire environment and there was one particularly neat little sequence where you first had to decode and then descramble a cryptic message. THAT is cool! Fighting with a slidey picture puzzle, then a painful minigame, then a make-a-path puzzle (timed, no less) then a fiddly maze does NOT make good inclusion of puzzles.

I don't even know how Decay ended because I didn't stick around to find out. But the point I'm trying to make is that consistency can make or break a horror game, or any game, and I was sorely disappointed. The best horror games I've seen put strong emphasis on the atmosphere or circumstance, not on jump-scares or gore (I'm looking at you, Dead Space).

Amnesia: The Dark Descent, although I haven't played it msyelf, it probably one of the scariest games I've seen. The atmosphere in itself is actually used as a gameplay mechanic; dark areas put strain on your character's sanity while light areas increase your risk of being spotted and chased down by monsters. Now don't get me wrong, Dead Space is scary in its own way, but it's more of a persistent unpleasantness that comes from having to cut up space-mutant-zombies into boody bits to ensure you've killed them properly. It has a pretty good grasp of its atmosphere; being claustrophobic and dark with flickery lights and obligatory writing in blood on the walls...but jump-scares (and predictable music cues to accompany them) don't mesh well with the slow constricting atmosphere the game already has.

Resident Evil 4 (the only Resident Evil I've managed to get further than 5 mins into) isn't really much of a horror game by these standards but it does make good use of its circumstance (alone in a town of creepy cultists, a bit Lovecraftian really) and it definitely has its eerier bits (see the cutscene after the Del Lago battle, and go ahead and search the REwiki for "Iron Maiden"s, you'll see what I mean.). It's a touch gross in the combat but not as gory as Dead Space, but the weird parasite critters are definitely horrific. (Headbursters, man, they're exactly what they sound like.)

Anyways, end of rant.

Until next time!