The real winner of PAX East 2019 was my mom

I saw a lot of fun games and spoke to a bunch of great people this weekend, but the real winner of PAX East 2019 was my mother. Now a retired nurse, my 65-year-old mother decided she would come to PAX for a day to see what all the fuss was about. She recently bought a Switch and is a huge fan of Animal Crossing, so there was bound to be something here for her. Turns out there was quite a bit.

In one of the coolest moments that we sadly can’t show, Destructoid’s own Jonathan Holmes chatted with my mom while she played Mortal Kombat 11 on Switch. When they walked into the demo booth, even the Nintendo rep was surprised she was there for such a violent title. As she explained to Holmes, she played them when I was just a child, so she eventually grew to like it.

When I caught back up with her, she was tagging along with my sister to try out Crash Team Racing Nitro-Fueled. I did manage to capture that, which you can see below. She’s not very good, but by god does she do her best…right up until the demo kiosk crashed. I guess she was showing up the audience too much, so the PlayStation couldn’t handle it.

My sister and mom also checked out Yoshi’s Crafted World, though my mom did not understand how to play it. Funny that she can grasp Mortal Kombat, but not Yoshi. I guess when you’re more interested in eviscerating opponents than throwing eggs, you’ll learn to adapt.

We all had a fun day on the town, checking out new games and reliving old classics. While my mom may not return to PAX, she had a great time seeing how technology has progressed in the 27-years since the original Mortal Kombat released. Also, I can confirm that MK11 runs very smoothly on Switch. It’s really quite the showcase for how powerful Nintendo’s device is. It’s a hell of a port.

What’s Next? – Short Blog

The day I started writing for Destructoid as staff was a dream come true. The culmination of years of studying, writing and honing my skill, finally publishing a review for potential millions to see was enough to bring me to tears. I had achieved the goal I set out for myself all those years ago.

Then a few months later, reality crashed into me. I had been working as a per diem employee at a homeless shelter when a very unfortunate incident happened. I ended up losing my job due to management’s decision right before December. While becoming unemployed at any point is unfortunate, doing so right at the peak of the holiday season is disastrous.

I wasn’t completely up shit creek, money wise, so I decided to start fresh at the beginning of the New Year. I would have the best possible chance to get my resume seen if I applied while employers were actively looking for new recruits. Sadly, as of the time of this writing, I am still unemployed. The magnitude of my situation at the homeless shelter has finally sunk in and I realize that I’m going nowhere and fast.

You’d think achieving two dream positions (working directly to help people and being a video game “journalist”) would see me elated, but that isn’t the case. I’ve slowly been running out of money and nothing seems to help. I’ve tried being an Uber driver, but apparently there aren’t a lot of people in Connecticut in need of chauffeuring. I’ve been constantly putting out applications, only to get rejections from basically everyone (including an unpaid internship!).

A few years back, I found myself in a somewhat similar situation. I left a job with my friend’s dad to obtain a personal training certification, which I successfully did. After that, I started on the job hunt only to get nowhere. Employers wanted me to have previous client bases while individual people wanted me to have experience in training. It was a ridiculous catch 22 that I couldn’t find an answer for.

Still, to this day, I cannot obtain work at any commercial gym. It makes me wonder what the value of education is. I took a big risk and it failed, but why did I even do that? I wanted a change of careers to something I enjoyed, but I guess that is too much to ask of the world. It feels like all of my choices are wrong.

Really, what is next for me? I’m 29 years old, sitting at home wasting away and getting nowhere in life. I don’t have money to return to school, I’m slowing depleting my funds on medicine and cellphone bills and I have little to show for it. It’s great that I’m able to engage with the gaming community on a larger level, but that doesn’t pay the bills. Why does everything have to come down to the almighty dollar?

How do people cope with the realization that their lives are nothing? When all you do is wake up, go to work, come home, eat and sleep, what is the point of life? Is there no possible career option that allows me to simultaneously enjoy what I do and earn a living? While I am always going to be grateful to Destructoid for giving me the chance to finally live out my aspirations, it’s looking more and more likely that I’ll never be able to turn this hobby into a job.

It hurts so much to write that, but it is the truth. I’m lost in a state of arrested development and I’m not sure how else to proceed. I just want to become something important to the world, but that doesn’t seem likely. For me, toiling away in obscurity until I inevitably die might be the only path.

Really and truly, I am just looking for possible options. Where is the flaw in my logic? What is preventing me from becoming successful? How do I accept reality and become a mindless drone? How do other people manage to find consistent work that lets them be independent?

I Will Survive

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Doing the right thing doesn’t always bring peace. When you’re a homeless person with a record, any threat to your safety becomes a threat to your life. Even if you know you’re breaking rules and causing trouble for others, when you lose the comfort of your safety net, all bets are off. Without a bed to sleep in, you might as well lie down and die.

Last night, I was assaulted by one of the men at the homeless shelter where I work. He had continuously broken our curfew rule and he wasn’t happy when I suspended him. Giving him a slight benefit of the doubt (and not wishing him to freeze out in the cold), I granted him permission to grab some of his belongings. Even if he was lying to me and himself, I wouldn’t want to bring harm to him.

Sadly, he didn’t feel the same way about me. I was helping another resident and his man turned around and slugged me. He got in a few more hits before I even realized what had happened. I’m thankful that someone else was in the room with me, or else I may have eventually retaliated and caused a serious problem.

What strikes me the most is the fear I saw in that man’s eyes. As he knocked me over and proceeded to walk towards me, I could see a killing intent beaming from his pupils. If I were a weaker person, I may have died in that room. While it frightens me to the very core of my being, it also makes me terribly sad that some people feel the need for physical violence.

When the world doesn’t go your way, resorting to such hostility isn’t going to solve your problems. You’re refusing to look in the mirror and see that your own behavior is causing your misfortune. I won’t claim I’m a saint, but I’m not the reason you lost everything in your life.

I do feel somewhat responsible, but mostly that I let such a violent man back into the shelter. I should have known this would occur; the guy had a history of coming in drunk and mouthing off to staff. He clearly has no respect for anyone, let alone himself. I can’t escape the thought that one of my female staff members could have been injured due to his guy’s belligerence.

I am mostly sharing this story, though, so that I don’t forget that moment of shock and horror. Certain events shape our lives and while I don’t intend on becoming a victim, I’m not going to shake this off like an accident. To walk past this like I’m some tough, emotionless robot is the wrong thing to do.

I also want everyone on this site to know that I feel stronger in my resolve to speak my mind. I may have taken a few hits to my face, but if your first hit doesn’t count, then expect me to keep ticking. I guess I’m a literal tank as I don’t even have any bruises or cuts.

Some of you may take issue with my articles, but your retorts lack substance. You’re dealing quick blows in a gut reaction without weight. You need a clear mind before you can harm me and your reasoning needs to be sound. Sure, I have my biases when it comes to some games, but I’ve do my research before posting.

I may have made mistakes in the past, but that isn’t happening anymore. I know who I am and what I’m setting out to do; I wish the naysayers would do the same. Be more constructive with your criticism, because my plate armor isn’t even going to kink when you strike.

And to the people that do enjoy my work and support me; I extend a tremendous thank you. As with this assault, I’m grateful that some people are able to put aside their own bullshit and reveal the beauty inside. I didn’t even need to exchange words to get their help and that overwhelms me.

Like I’ve said, I’m not saint, but I would have never thought others would put their own safety on the line for me. Clearly, I’ve done something right by them and I’m doing something right by you. Thank you so much for everything. Your kind words and continued support mean a lot to me.

A More “Real” VR Experience

“We hope as more people get to see VR, the experience will become more normal. People will then come into the VR experience and just see another game instead of a toy.” – Cindy Miller, Lead Designer at Culture Shock Games.

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I spent my past weekend at PAX East looking at a bunch of “new” games. While I wasn’t entirely impressed with most of the showcase, I did manage to find a few interesting things. One of the more intriguing displays was for an indie game called We Are Chicago.

At first, my friend and I were simply lining up to try VR. We were glancing at the monitor and joking about almost everything in the game world. This older guy and his son were joining in with us as we kept pointing out some of the inconsistencies of the VR experience.

The demo consisted of a scripted conversation about inner-city life and a scene where the player is supposed to set the table. I wanted to get into the demo and start flinging plates around. I wondered how awesome it would be to teleport into a fridge or smack someone in the face. I was hell bent on breaking the game world.

Weird little glitches like disappearing doors and unshapely character models were just adding fuel to the fire. It was like some low budget B-movie with a more interactive twist. Who cares what the people are saying? The real joy is in tearing it apart.

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Just look at that!! How could you resist throwing it?!

As we kept waiting, though, I realized something about my behavior; I was being a real jackass. I won’t claim that every game should be treated as a masterpiece (or even with respect), but it’s hard to fault a small team for trying to break new ground.

The non VR experience of We Are Chicago is substantially better. It still has a way to go before being released, but its ability to convey a story through a slightly interactive medium looks to be taking an already tired genre in some new directions.

“We want people to empathize with how things are,” is what Cindy Miller told me. “We like the fact that we are touching on these topics and we are going to be giving some proceeds from the game to help non-profit organizations.”

That really hit me in the gut. Here I was, joking about how goofy the VR demo looked. When my friend asked the lead programmer, Michael Block, about the intended plotline for the game, I jokingly said, “It’s about a teleporting man who is tasked with setting the dinner table and refuses to.”

I suppose that is the downside to an expo dedicated to “new” things. People want to experience VR, but the show floor is so crowded that dedicating yourself to any one thing is a monumental task. When some indie developer has a quick, accessible demonstration out, you mainly want to fuck around with it to experience the technology.

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Which way did he go, George?

“We like the fact that a lot of people come for the VR and stay for the game. We’re happy that people get to experience it,” Cindy said to me with a bright smile. It doesn’t matter if people think her game is bogus; she is mostly happy to present the idea to the masses.

Thankfully, I’m not the kind of person to shut my mind off. I tinkered with the VR experience on the first day of PAX, but I returned to that booth every other day. The second day was to take another friend over and the third day was to grab some photos and quotes. I wanted to challenge myself with bringing out the better side of this game.

I don’t know if I should explain its plot details or any of the controls. At its best, the game feels like a Telltale adventure game before they began sucking up every contract possible. We Are Chicago is taking the idea of an interactive narrative to its logical conclusion.

We’ve seen games built on making us empathize with protagonists or thrusting us into difficult scenarios, but none of them have truly dealt with real life problems. The abundance of World War II shooters may have all been based on true stories, but none of those felt real.

Most gamers also don’t have to live in a shitty slum. A lot of us have a comfortable life. The worst problem we will ever face is pissing our boss off. None of us know the emotional toll that constantly living in fear brings. None of us need to worry about stray bullets flying through our walls and killing our families.

Cindy and Michael both told me, “Everything that happens in the game is based on real events.” Cindy then added, “Our writer came from Englewood and is bringing his personal experience into the game.” Well, damn. Safe, secure, blissfully happy me gets to go home to white suburbia while these developers have grown up in a crappy reality.

Did the rest of the attendees connect with this game on the same level? I honestly don’t think so. People were so happy to get into a VR headset that the conversations might as well of not happened. You could have put stickmen in place of the character models and no one would bat an eye.

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Half of these people probably never even saw the game. I know Jed didn’t!

I didn’t want to leave the expo and have this game become a distant memory. I didn’t want others to see the low budget and think this game was a joke. VR may be the future, but if it robs a game like this of its narrative punch, then it doesn’t deserve to survive on the market. VR should be opening people to new realities; it shouldn’t be relegated to a simple plaything.

Thankfully, We Are Chicago will be releasing as a standard game first. The VR experience was mostly made for PAX (and was finished in a week), but will become available at an unspecified time after the game is finally out.

I feel that is for the best. I’d rather the discussion start with how dramatic the game is rather than how ridiculous a flying plate looks in VR.

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Cindy Miller (Left), Michael Tisdale (Center), Michael Block (Right)

I Did My Best

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Working at a homeless shelter is fairly taxing. When you constantly strive to believe in the good inside of everyone, it becomes disheartening when you learn they are lying. Old habits die hard, as the saying goes.

To have someone look you in the eye and tell a complete fabrication is quite maddening. It feels like the soul is being ripped straight from your heart and getting crushed on the pavement before you. You start to distrust your own instincts and the words of your compatriots.

It makes me feel as if my intentions are wrong. I really just want to help people find a better place in their lives; to have others game the system is enough to bring my blood to a boil. When I see such reckless disregard for the wellbeing of others, I want to haul off and punch someone in their face.

I personally feel like a monster. I shifted the blame towards my co-workers for failing to inform; what really happened was that residents exploited my naivety. A moment like this is something that builds character, but not in a way I like. To become colder to the concerns of my fellow man feels detrimental to me.

I’ve always had a problem like this. At a previous job, I had trouble telling my co-workers no. If they needed a shift covered, I was there. I wanted to help as much as I could, despite what it was doing to my mood. I longed for some freedom, but was constantly shackled to the cash register. It lit a fire in my mind that was itching to lash out at anyone.

I ended up fighting myself. I would go home and call myself a spineless coward. I would lament how I’d wasted my free time at a job that wasn’t accomplishing anything. I became spiteful of the people who were taking advantage of my kindness; I was their whipping boy.

Now, it seems the cycle is repeating. I thought I had found the perfect job for me. This was something where I could truly make an impact on society. People would come in off the streets and get a second chance to change their fate. They would no longer need to live in squalor.

Just when I thought I had found the perfect job, I now feel like I made a mistake. I know I’ve screwed up, but I’m not still so sure I can handle the situations presented to me. I’ve been witness to a drunken woman calling me an asshole and claiming the shelter is worthless. I’ve had a person construct an elaborate story just to get out of losing their bed.

To then see those people on their discharge date claiming as if they were wronged is tortuous. How can someone be in such denial? In what reality is nothing ever your fault? How can you throw away the safety your children now have simply because you’re a fuck up?

It’s strenuous to bear witness to habitual liars, compulsive addicts and slothful youths who waste their opportunity for betterment. It’s reassuring when you do have residents who are strongly motivated and eager to leave. They are the exception.

When I started working this job, I felt bad for passing over all the homeless people I’d see on streets. I used to believe they were simply lazy. Now I know that my initial thought was correct. If you’re willing to waste your day on a street corner holding a sign, you clearly don’t give a shit about actually helping yourself.

I took a lot of strides to make sure I wasn’t sitting in self-pity for the rest of my life. I may not have everything that my heart desires, but I at least know that I’m trying. No one can take that away from me. To have to deal with people who want to casually throw their lives away makes me angry.

I don’t want to put everyone’s words into doubt, but I suppose that is the best way to deal with these people. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Luckily, I won’t be fooled again. I’m not going to lie down and let my chance at personal gain be ruined by someone who wants a handout.

Does Doom Still Matter?

No name speaks more of a quintessential first-person shooter than Doom. Doom was the catalyst for a cacophony of violent games in the 90’s that eventually led to the ESRB being founded to regulate game content. Not only that, it popularized a genre of gaming that had yet to break out into the mainstream.

While the initial sequel, Doom II, was actually better than the first game, developer iD Software has yet to make a game that follows up on the legacy set forth by Doom. Maybe it’s a mixture of nostalgia and genre evolution that keeps holding them back, but for some reason, Doom cannot be topped.

In a few months, the confusingly titled Doom reboot will be launching. Taking inspiration from a mod for the original game, Doom looks to up the violence and make the game as fast paced as it’s forefather. The big question on my mind is; Does Doom still matter?

Obviously one cannot debate the importance of the original title. It was one of the first 3D games with an arsenal of weapons and motley crue of enemies that was unparalleled for the time. It had revolutionary online play and extensive modding tools that allowed fans to make their own creations.

I have no idea what I’m looking at.

It also had some incredible graphics, a rocking soundtrack and some genuinely outstanding level design (that still holds up). Make no mistake; Doom was the real deal. My first encounter with it was in 4th grade. An old friend introduced me to it on the playground with the instruction manual.

I didn’t have a Windows PC, so I actually had my parents run out and buy a Mac compatible Windows 95 launcher just so I could try this game. While I did eventually get it running, it was missing some features and would often crash.

My fascination with the game didn’t stop until we eventually did get a true Windows computer. That was my very first computer, actually; a Packard Bell with a 3 gb hard drive. Those were much simpler times.

Regardless, Doom was almost a taboo for how it “corrupted” the innocence of gaming. Parents were sickened at the depiction of “violence” the game had and it’s demonic villains. I guess killing hellspawn is evil, even if it saves the Earth.

News outlets were shocked at how you could mangle police officers (I still, to this day, want to know what game they played). Activist groups wanted the game removed from store shelves. The world was coming to an end and it was all because of this little game.

This is just the second level of the game.

Needless to say, the controversy was overblown and gaming continued to evolve. We now have more grotesque displays of violence in games and sexuality is even becoming a common occurrence. Gaming is a pop-culture staple that is slowly becoming less niche by the day.

So what can a new Doom game in 2016 bring to the table? Does Doom need to be more than a simple throwback? Are fans ever going to be impressed with what gets released? I’m not sure I can answer all of those questions.

The easiest to tackle would be the intention of a new Doom. Not every piece of media needs to have a deeper message or mean something more to it’s medium. On occasion, a good, mindless, violent trip through excess and escapism is precisely what a person needs.

A rough day at work can be capped off with a good, meaty rocket launcher explosion of your best friend (in game form, of course…). The cathartic quality that Doom always exhibits can’t be understated; to this day, I still fire explosives in games and expect splash damage.

The original Doom wasn’t made with the purpose of reinventing the wheel. The developers saw a thing they liked, a new way to do it and set off to make it the best product possible. The main reason Doom succeeded so much was because of it’s business model; a freeware version of the first episode was available for free through mail order and the internet (if one was lucky enough to own a modem in 1994).

That gaming had not seen anything like Doom was merely a coincidence. Most game makers, artists and musicians don’t set out to specifically enhance their art form; they tend to fall on an idea they all love and furnish it into something unique.

How could you not be in love with this?

Will fans accept a new Doom? Well, initial reaction says yes. Fans reportedly cheered at the unveiling during Quakecon 2014. No one but those attendees got to see the footage of the game and everyone was claiming it was going “back to basics”. I guess they were on board.

Then a year went by without much information leaking. No one was talking about the game and people hadn’t seen what the gameplay was going to be like. Eventually at E3, a trailer was released that showcased footage to the general public. Now fans were skeptical.

The “official” box art actually typifies everything wrong with the industry in 2016. The colors are muted, limited and saturated. The main character is faceless, staring at the ground and “gruff”. The font takes up more space than anything else and shows nothing of what the game is.

It just reeks of a cash grab. That is completely disregarding the actual quality of the game, but it seems that Bethesda only commissioned a reboot of Doom because reboots are the new, hot thing. Movie franchises are increasingly doing reboots and even Tomb Raider, another gaming institution, had a successful reimagining.

Look how many shits she gives.

Fans never seem to be pleased with anything. Gunning for that crowd will usually end in disaster. Still, whom else are you going to market a reboot of Doom to in 2016? Falling back on the legacy of your series will do nothing for newer gamers.

Which brings us to the final question; What can a new Doom bring to the table in 2016? As I mentioned above, the main source of inspiration seems to be a mod for the original Doom called Brutal Doom.

One of the creators of the original game, John Romero, was quoted as saying, “The only thing I think about now is.. what if… when we released Doom, we actually released Brutal Doom?” (laughs). We would have destroyed the gaming industry, I think. Brutal Doom is hilarious.”

I’m guessing that was all Bethesda needed to hear to fast track progress on a Doom reboot. A lot of the animations for weapons look like they were taken from the mod. The gore factor seems to have been clearly inspired by the mod. Sadly, the mod seems to be faster paced.

Without taking that into account, though, what else could Doom do? Shooters have become a stagnant genre in recent years. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare seemed to be the last big shakeup to the genre in terms of evolution. It’s online, RPG-lite system of unlocks caused a plethora of copycats that still haven’t gone away in nearly 10 years.

Level design has also remained the same…

Call of Duty is also responsible for popularizing the down sight aiming that basically every shooter uses today. Along with Resident Evil 4 redefining third person combat, action gaming hasn’t truly changed since 2005. The industry is falling back on old ideas and past successes to keep their inflated budgets and massive paychecks going.

While Doom may not have started out with the intent of reinventing gaming, it’s launch was special. It was a fundamental shift from being marketed as a toy for children into becoming a hobby that anyone could enjoy. It expanded the horizons of what software could do.

Doom in 2016 just looks like the same boring stuff we’ve seen for decades. I’ve never taken Doom as a serious, scary, horrific trek through a nightmare. Doom has always been a goofy, colorful, fun filled time for me. How can you look at the original graphics and not feel happy?

Even the defining features of this reboot, it’s gore filled executions, was done in Gears of War. You would be forgiven for mistaking Doom as a first-person sequel to that series; the art style is practically the same.

So, does Doom still matter? For cultural reverence, I’d say yes. As far as being an exciting, landmark event; hell no. There is nothing that Doom can do to become interesting again, apart from a complete shift in tone and setting (which would then defeat the purpose).

What film producers, game developers and artists need to realize is that certain things take off because of their time frame. Doom was a massive hit because nothing else was like it in 1994. In 2016, we’ve seen so many things emulate Doom that gamers just don’t care.

And no one cares about this.

Naming your game Doom and expecting it to sell is just naive. You would be better set creating a new IP and shifting focus away from the nostalgia laden masses. It’s fine to claim the game is a spiritual successor to Doom, but to drag the actual legacy into the dirt is shameful.

Then again, come May, I may be eating these words. The game could be good. Whose to say?

Series I Love – The Legend of Zelda

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When I was younger, picking which games I wanted to play was simple. I was a pretty damn spoiled kid, so I usually saw something in the store and my mother bought it. While she objected to some things, she typically got me anything my heart desired.

Walking into our local Toys’R’Us one evening in 1998, I happened upon a flyer for an upcoming game called Zelda. My reading comprehension wasn’t as astute as now, so I didn’t even catch the subtitle underneath. To me, the golden sheen and shield crest were enough to hook my interest.

Over the next few months, I played my N64 as usual and kept my obsession with Goldeneye 007 going. At such a tender age, nearly any game would get its hooks into me and engulf my imagination. I kept thinking back to that sword and shield and wondering what dangers awaited me.

As the release date drew closer, Nintendo began their marketing campaign on TV and in movie theaters. I distinctly remember sitting in the theaters and seeing the “WHILST THOU SUCK?” advertisement. It put a fire in my eyes and made me determined to prove those ads wrong.

A night or two before the games release, I heard from a GameStop employee that the cartridge for Ocarina of Time was going to be gold. My little mind was blown. I couldn’t let this thing escape me. I needed to have this game in my collection. It felt like a rite of passage.

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After getting home with the game, I couldn’t wait to play it. I nearly ripped the box apart with excitement, but I saved my enthusiasm for the journey. I didn’t want to sully the experience by destroying its case.

As soon as the first chords of the theme played, I was in love. The game felt legendary even without its namesake. For 10 year old me, this was the most important game of my life. It was almost as if I became an adult as I stepped in Link’s boots and set off to save the land of Hyrule.

I had never played anything like it at that point in my life. My childhood was full of video games, but the 90’s were dominated by platformers and beat-em-ups. Fighting games were a big deal after Street Fighter, but not many besides that and Mortal Kombat stuck around.

Something like Zelda encompassed all of the exploration I loved from Mario with puzzle solving and dungeon diving. It was literally being placed into darkness with some tools and being told to figure it out. You had no guide and your worth was measured in accomplishing the mind benders in front of you.

I don’t remember how long it took my younger self to finish the N64 classic; I do know that I nearly missed the bus ride to school one morning since I was nearing the end and refused to skip the cutscene. My mother also nearly fell asleep listening to Zelda’s lullaby after a long night at work.

That same year, Nintendo had a double whammy for young me. A colorized version of the first portable Zelda title, Link’s Awakening, was released for the Gameboy Color. I always brought the device with me to school for recess and the bus rides, so clearly I had to have this other Zelda title.

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When I’d leave home for the bus stop, I’d pack Link’s Awakening with me. From one to the other, my adventures with Link never ended. I’d sketch doodles of Link tackling foes, exploring ruins and finding treasure. I would fantasize about being in those dank caverns and surmounting the colossal beasts.

Since those games, The Legend of Zelda has become my favorite series. I’ve beaten each game in the series more than once (save for a couple of them) and I even get excited hearing about re-releases of past games. It’s strange to be excited for an HD version of a game you’ve finished 3 times and still own.

Even the dreaded Zelda 2 I’ve managed to complete twice. When playing it, I find the game amazing. For that matter, during any of the Zelda games, I’m awestruck. How Nintendo manages to craft such a varied world with intricate puzzles and hidden treasures is just awesome to me.

The mixture of thought provoking puzzle design and grandiose combat scenarios with a classic tale of good versus evil just keeps me coming back. I dig all of the variations the series has seen. Wind Waker is my favorite and I love bringing a friend along in Four Swords Adventures. The more recent Triforce Heroes is a solid co-op puzzle game and Skyward Sword made me a believer of motion controls.

Honestly, there isn’t a title in the series I truly dislike. I may complain about the issues that Twilight Princess has wit pacing or how superfluous most of Skyward Sword is, but I can’t get enough of those worlds. They are filled to the brim with interesting content.

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More importantly, they make me feel like my actions matter. I know that gaming has always placed your character as a hero, but those exploits weren’t as personal until The Legend of Zelda came along. With Zelda 2, Link was now directly helping people with their requests.

Running menial tasks shouldn’t be that gratifying, but I’ve always been drawn to the side quests in Zelda. Fishing for hours to get a stupid scale or holding onto a chicken and floating down to Earth is utterly captivating to me. That each activity rewards the player with something useful also makes those tasks feel less tedious.

I also just plain love exploring. Hyrule has had such a rich landscape, but even the extra worlds of Termina and Koholint are filled with nooks and crannies to delve into. As much as I may associate puzzles with Zelda, spelunking is a big part of the formula.

I’m not opposed to change and I do wish that some of the tropes would be put to rest, but I’m always eager and ready for a new Zelda title. Each one is like stepping into an actual legend. That I get to be the hero who overcomes adverse odds is just icing on the cake.

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Here’s to the future of Zelda.

Never Give Up

The holiday season is a tiring time for many. Constant searching for the perfect gift while still keeping up with work can cause people to lose their minds. You never know if the deal you just got was a rip-off and your unintentional “neglect” of family tends to send rifts between your loved ones.

Sadly, I seem to have lost this holiday season. In an effort to get some extra cash to continue my job search, I went to Craigslist to sell a laptop. Long story short, the check I was given was fraudulent and my bank account is now overdrawn. I currently have -$1300; just in time for Christmas!

The whole situation has tarnished my perception of reality. Not only am I ashamed that I was taken advantage of, but I can’t believe that someone would scam another person over a laptop. Is that really worth it?

I’ve been recovering from depression for a few years now and this really set me back. I’m not suicidal, but I’ve lost a lot of trust for humanity that I had built up. I go out to the gym and my mind is filled with vicious thoughts of how self-righteous everyone is. No one cares that I even exist, let alone that I’m in a troubling predicament.

Where nobody knows your name…

With all of this negativity, it would make sense if you assumed I have given up. Short term answer, I have a little. Long term answer, not at all. In the face of hard times, the choices you make are what define your character. I’m choosing to focus more on helping myself above others for a short while.

My “dream” is to become a Personal Trainer. While the whole umbrella of the dream is to help people, Personal Trainer is the reality of the skills I have been given. I’m not a smart person, a good looking person or an extremely outgoing guy. I am very dedicated, willing to help and incredibly active.

From a young age I’ve had an abundance of energy. While that is currently low (due to the aforementioned situation), I usually perk up when something interests me. I can go from near comatose to flat out sprinting in seconds. To say that Personal Training is a field I don’t fit in is a complete lie.

I may have hit the biggest hurdle in my life up to this point, but I’m not backing down. I cannot; there is still too much left for me to accomplish in this lifetime. Much like the heroes of the Yakuza series, I have a passion burning in me that cannot be squashed out.

Yakuza 5 was recently released in the West and it’s biggest theme is “Dreams”. Each character is fighting to attain their ideal life. For series mainstay Kazuma Kiryu, his dream is to help his orphanage grow and protect abandoned children.

By any means necessary.

Kiryu’s adopted daughter, Haruka, has a similar dream. Her talents have led her into the path of stardom. She is competing in a fictionalized version of American Idol called the “Princess League.” She hopes to become the top J-Pop idol so that she can help her home (the orphanage).

The other playable characters are also fighting for their dreams. Each may not be typical for what we consider the “American Dream,” but this is the happiness they want. They are willing to lay their lives on the line to achieve the goals they set forth.

To see that kind of persistence and give up would be criminal. If nothing else, the Yakuza series has taught me that I have the power within me. My goals may not be lofty, but they are my goals. The path I want is all I need to be happy with life.

Sure, things are pretty bleak at the moment. I may even have to live on the streets for a few months, but I will pull through. I’ve been to hell and back and I’m not going to stay there.

I will never give up. That much I can guarantee you.

Children and War

There are some minor spoilers for Metal Gear Solid 5 contained in this blog. Not much regarding the plot is detailed, but if you wish to play that game with a fresh mind, do not continue past the picture.

Metal Gear Solid 5 may not have the most detailed plotline, but it does bring up a lot of interesting questions. Things that deal with nuclear warfare, genetic manipulation and honor are standard fare as far as Metal Gear is concerned, but child warfare is relatively new.

Aside from Raiden in Metal Gear Solid 2, we’ve never seen children on the battlefield or heard of their past. MGS 2 tried to describe how Raiden was robbed of his life because of Solid Snake, but what about kids who never had a chance to experience life in general?

The mission Blood Runs Deep in Phantom Pain tasks Snake with eliminating 6 targets. The client they have taken on requests this so that none of the rebels talk. It’s a dramatic increase from previous missions, but the biggest surprise is hardly the amount of targets.

When you approach the cell that contains the enemy, you find that they are children around 12 years old. It is truly shocking (despite pre-release footage showing them). Kaz gives you a short speech that details how there, “is no Heaven or Hell for these kids.” Snake mutters that there is another choice; Outer Heaven.

This begins a thrilling and nail biting escort mission out of the camp through a guarded river bed. Apart from being one of the best missions I’ve ever played, the game got me thinking about what war must do to these children.

Even when Snake gets them to safety, will their lives be changed? Being raised in a literal battlefield has to have some kind of scaring effect on the psyche of these kids. Is it possible that war is the only thing these kids will ever be capable of?

This is, sadly, a question that is raised often in real life. CNN has a report from former child soldier Ngor Mayol that explains how he is living after fighting at the age of 15. Without any form of rehabilitation, Ngor leads a normal life as a grocery store clerk.

In his own words, “My life experience in the military, I was so proud of it, to defend the territory of South Sudan.” For him, his time on the battlefield was noble. His cause made sense and he regrets nothing.

He has some nightmares of the friends he lost, but he seems to be friendly and calm. One cannot say if he is lucky or if PTSD doesn’t effect children as much, but all hope is not gone. Sometimes, fighting battles at a young age will do nothing to you.

The terrorist group, ISIS, has sent many children into battle as suicide soldiers. Girls are turned into prostitutes or sold as wives and other children are given AKs and told to shoot on sight. A lot of these kids don’t suffer from any mental trauma.

The biggest concern seems to be the never ending cycle of war. If soldiers are readily replaceable with children, then how many lives need to be spent to end a conflict? Can a man instinctively kill a child because the kid is pointing a gun at him? Is that a quandary that any person should be faced with?

Metal Gear never answers those questions. Instead, the game will automatically fail you if any of the children die. There are also later missions where you need to infiltrate a base camp that is entirely composed of kids. In that mission, as well, you cannot kill anyone.

It seems the stance of Mother Base, and Metal Gear as a whole, is that killing children is morally reprehensible. This is in stark contrast to the plotline that details the fall of Big Boss. If he is truly an enemy, why isn’t he getting his job done at any cost?

That isn’t what this blog is about. Much like how Hideo Kojima included children in the Phantom Pain to spark discussion, I’m writing this to ask questions. I want to know what other people feel on this situation.

While I’m fairly certain we all agree that putting children into armed conflict is deplorable, we may not all agree on how their futures will turn out. I don’t know that I would be able to escape the demons of my past if I had ever killed someone at a young age.

It also begs the question; is war natural? Is our species doomed to endlessly repeat a cycle of death and destruction? Animals in the wild will fight each other, but they don’t enlist thousands of comrades to fall under a specific cause. Humanity seems to be the only species which tries to justify it’s actions.

I guess when the going gets tough, throwing kids on the front lines is a quick and dirty solution. It’s similar to cigarette companies and their marketing campaigns; getting them hooked when they are young builds a trust that is hard to break.

Whatever the answer, I’m happy to at least be thinking about something that afflicts our world. Without Metal Gear coming along and placing me in ridiculous and outlandish situations, I’d probably never give a second thought to the war machine and it’s devastating impact on humanity.

My Summer – Bonus Day: SGC Memories and Blog Reflections

Summer is finally over, g1’s. A new school year has started and so my gaming blogs will be more weekly instead of intense, daily excursions of gaming glory. I’m going to take the time in this blog to discuss the other aspects of my summer and give some reflections on how I felt about my day-to-day overviews of games.

If you are a newer g1 (or somehow spent time under a rock for the past year), then you may not know that Screwattack held a convention this summer titled, “SGC.” As luck may have it, I was able to attend this glorious convention.

I have to say, having only been to one previous gaming convention before (Digital Overload, if you need to know), SGC blew my mind. I was not sure what to expect (I was thinking panels would be 4-5 hours apart with really just people talking for the rest of the time), I could not believe the awesome I had encountered.

All of this almost didn’t happen, though. When I arrived at the luxurious (i.e. crappy) Westin Hotel, I was met with a strange problem. INSUFFICIENT FUNDS! “SHIT,” I began to think, “WHAT THE HELL HAPPENED?” As it turns out, do not book your hotel room online and expect the hotel staff to receive payment without specifically asking them to.

After a few calls to my mother (who pretty much panicked), I was able to procure a room for 3 nights until she could pay the rest (which she was able to get and I am grateful for). Well, with this harrowing moment put behind me, I walked over to receive my staff badge for the weekend. While waiting, I happened to run into a few nice guys who I spent the evening with. We went over to Denny’s and have a great time.

Now, Denny’s has never agreed with me. I knew that going in, but I didn’t want to be a killjoy and say, “Screw that place and f*#@ you guys,” as I was really having fun with them. So the next morning, about 45 minutes before the convention started, my stomach hit the floor. What else could go wrong this weekend?

Thankfully, nothing did. Even though I reduced my food intake to a granola bar every 10 hours (and eventually I had a burger for lunch on Sunday), I was filled with enough energy to act crazy around people and have a great time kicking ass on Street Fighter 3.

My weekend was pretty much the Street Fighter 3 cabinet. I ended up playing at least 40 matches with one kid who was pretty proficient with Dudley. Being an old fan of SF3, but not playing in years, I had to stick with my man Ryu. We had some great matchups and even ended up getting a perfect on each other in one match.

As for meet ups with the crew, I pretty much talked to everyone but Bryan, Corey and Ben. I did help Corey on the first day by moving some stuff with 2 other fellows, but I never tried to bother her during the weekend (she was incredibly busy). Time for the requisite SGC photos with people, courtesy of my extremely awful camera.

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Nick never dropped character as Tommy, but I still felt I needed to get something out of him. As I approached him for the picture, I asked him, “Can I punch you in the beak?” Tommy shook his head and simply said, “I’d have to punch you in the beak, then.” Fair trade in my mind, but he took our picture and went on about our business.

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Brentalfloss was a great guy. He walked into the Console Gaming area and GPX felt like doing an interview with him. To my fortune, I happened to be the patsy behind the counter that was called to hold the camera. Before the interview, I got my picture and we chatted a little. I lamented not seeing his live performance, but he assured me that the good times were still coming.

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Craig was a great man to meet. I’ve looked up to him in the past few months for this ability to take nothing and create greatness. I looked up so much that for a school assignment in one of my journalism classes, I interviewed the man. I was sure he would forget, but he told me that he had the interview framed in his office. You wouldn’t imagine the pride I felt hearing that.

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Now the picture with Jose is probably my favorite. The day before, I had said a simple hello to Jose and began laughing my ass off. I straightened myself out and said it again. Jose simply started at me and said, “F$*# you.” We then shared a laugh and parted ways. I met up with him the next day and he simply had me get on the floor because of his lack of energy. Right before the photo, he told me, “Dude, your hand is right near my balls.” Classic Jose quote, right there.

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As for Chad and Destin, not many things were said. This was the last day and the final few minutes before everyone was leaving, so I had to make it quick. Chad and I talked a bit, but mostly about how great the weekend was. Destin simply got my picture and I shook his hand, but I kind of shook it twice and felt awkward. I hope Destin doesn’t think I’m some weirdo after that.

If you are wondering what I did as staff, I was helping in the console gaming room. I dolled out the games and controllers to people while making sure no one stole anything (we did almost misplace a few copies of Gears, though). The guys running the console room, GPX Gaming, were extremely nice and I’m thankfully that they were able to help me with questions (also, props to The God Damned Batman for being hilarious).

Regarding my week-long blogs about games, I feel pretty good. I started to lose some steam when I wrote about Blazblue (I drifted towards review more than opinion and impression) and I wasn’t too happy with infamous, but I think I did well overall.

The reaction to my blogs was pretty impressive at first, but it slowly died down as the week went on. While I wasn’t discouraged by this, I’m wondering exactly what I should do to generate a bigger reaction for my future blogs and series. If there is anything at all you g1’s would like to see, please let me know.

And now time for the serious part of the blog. Last week on Saturday, my grandmother passed away after 91 years of life. She was a big influence in the way I wanted to pursue religion in my life and she helped me define my character when I meet people. She will be missed dearly.

In the end, my summer was good, but much like life everything eventually comes to an end. Here’s hoping that we all learn from our experiences and that we never let small things in life bog us down. I will do my best in the future to improve my skills and hopefully bring joy to you g1’s.