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.

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Integrity Vs Monetary Gain

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens just opened up worldwide and a big question has been on my mind; where does art end and money making begin? One of the biggest struggles I’ve had in my life is dealing with the fact that, to make a living, I need to accept money from people.

All I’ve ever truly wanted to do was exist in this world and help others. That I need to constantly be searching for work and getting paid puts me in a sour mood. That some of my favorite entertainment properties also exist to make cash also gets me agitated.

I wasn’t alive at the advent of film, but I can’t imagine that visionaries who saw the format were immediately thinking of monetary gain. Artistic integrity had to have been present for some of them.

To take it back even further, what of famous authors or composers? Was Shakespeare simply churning out comedies and dramas for cash? Did Mozart take his talent for music and use it solely for personal gain?

When I review a film or game, I tend to look at it like a piece of art. I certainly understand that not everything is created to stimulate the mind, but most works have a purpose. Someone doesn’t come up with an idea and then pause their train of thought to consider how to market the thing.

I’ve always believed that film makers and game developers create to express themselves more so than inflate their pockets. It sickens me when I read stories about selfish producers or greedy corporations churning out endless amounts of trash for misinformed masses.

The Force Awakens happened to actually be good, despite existing solely for money. The film makers behind the project put a lot of passion into their craft, but that doesn’t excuse the film’s cynical nature. This is a nostalgia vehicle with plenty of fan service and a vague connection to what came before.

Does that mean I shouldn’t enjoy it? Are the themes present in the film not worth discussing? Do any of the people involved truly care about the project beyond launching it? It’s tough to think about.

Nintendo seems to be riding the nostalgia train of the Legend of Zelda as hard as they can. That series is my personal favorite game franchise, but even I am beginning to feel queasy. Nintendo definitely is whoring it out with re-releases and updates.

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Don’t forget your amiibo! *additional fee of $13.99*

Big publishers like Activision and EA have relied on their “flagship” franchises for over a decade now. Call of Duty has become a November staple despite negative feedback from the more current titles. Battlefield hasn’t gone away since 3, even with skipping one year for a Medal of Honor title (made by the same developer, no less).

Mario has turned into a bloated excuse to keep a legend around. Sega won’t put Sonic out to pasture. Capcom is trying their damnedest to copy everyone else. What happened to the games made with love and care?

I know indies exist (in both the film and game industry), but those are hardly getting the attention they deserve. You also have indie developers like Double Fine who are leaning on their own pasts to create a sequel to a game that don’t really need one.

It feels like artistic integrity has long been forgotten. To create any kind of brand recognition takes too much effort for studios to invest in. Gigantic budgets and record breaking sales aren’t required to make something successful, but companies tend to close down without positive reception.

The cost of production for films and games has ballooned out of control. To stay in the business that one may love, they have to compromise their own desires to work on something that is devoid of integrity. Artistry and revenue don’t co-exist.

It breaks my heart to see this. Maybe this is all a part of growing up and following the development process so close, but I’m really becoming jaded to films and games. I want to see brand new things, but even I am afraid of buying into a game that I know nothing of.

When I pick up a new Zelda, I at least know the general premise of what I’m getting into. If I go for something like Undertale, what the fuck am I supposed to expect? The name doesn’t really make sense to me and the small glimpses I’ve seen of it are ambiguous. That doesn’t instill confidence in me.

Is it possible to make something with your heart and soul and then demand people pay you for it? I personally don’t agree with that. The reason I gave up pursuing a  career as a gaming journalist was because of the struggle I had with asking for money.

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I love to discuss my thoughts on games and what I feel playing through a new experience. To tell people that they need to pay me before I do that is gross. Why should anyone be required to fork over their hard earned money for my stupid ramblings?

I want my message to get to other people, not have it locked within a cage. Stories that intrigue me always have some kind of deeper message or meaning. They pay respect to their viewers and don’t compromise their creator’s being. That is what I’ve always sought out.

That doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Anything truly new will be swept under the rug to make way for the corporate machine. Visionary ideas will be buried in favor of guaranteed success. Maybe I should just fall in line and accept my check.

Link Play

People love to claim that the Legend of Zelda series is basically the same game over and over again. While this is failing to take into account all of the handheld titles, even the main console entries have enough differences to differentiate themselves.

Still, Nintendo must have really taken that criticism to heart as the Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes is completely different from the classic Zelda mold. The game is more akin to Four Swords and not it’s Gamecube sequel.

While I enjoyed the game, I think it was mostly due to me being a die-hard Zelda fan. The singleplayer mode is hot trash and the weird requirement of three players kind of ruins local multiplayer with just a single buddy. Download Play is very generous, so at least you don’t have to have friends with copies of the game.

I can’t quite put my finger on why I may consider this the weakest Zelda game in the series. That isn’t to say anything is particularly bad about it, save for it’s netcode; I’m mostly just saying that nothing is quite original about it.

Since the game bears a huge resemblance to Four Swords, it’s easy to compare the two games. For starters, you progress through areas that are basically small rooms. There isn’t an overworld or any kind of dungeon exploration; you are placed in an area with some items and small puzzles.

“Puzzles”

Successfully completing the puzzle gets you to the next room and so on until a boss fight. It is fun, but it becomes pretty routine in a very short time. There are stylish touches like some graphical effects, 3D and great music, but without the costume changing mechanic, the game would be a bit dull.

Costumes are what define this Zelda experience. Changing to and fro makes for some great times. Having Link cross dress or putting on a replica of Marth’s outfit is well and good, but unlocking some of the more badass costumes (like Sword Master or Fierce Deity) can make replays and challenges trivial.

Four Swords was incredibly rudimentary in design. While having three friends help you through puzzles was a blast, all of it’s dungeons are randomly generated. At some point, you begin to see repeat room designs and immediately know the solution. I guess that takes awhile, but it also leads to a game that has no distinct or memorable moments.

That game got it’s fun out of being novel. The DSi re-release added some much needed content to spruce up the endgame, but it’s original state is a bit of a throwaway gimmick. Can Zelda multiplayer work? Four Swords said yes.

The sequel, Four Swords Adventures really went to town with the whole concept. You were required to have Gameboy Advance link cables for multiplayer, but each person could be exploring a small room on their own. Main puzzles had players taking divergent paths to find items and culminate in some grand solution.

Or a daring escape!

Everyone emerged from their GBAs and provided the steps necessary; Triforce Heroes doesn’t really have that. I can accept the lack of 4 players, but often times you can beat an entire room by yourself. It makes the concept of multiplayer feel like it was forced upon a different execution of the Zelda formula.

While online play should make up for lacking friends or having differing schedules, Triforce Heroes has some really unstable netcode. Seemingly perfect games can end suddenly for no reason and most people have no idea how to setup a WiFi connection; I’ve had lag so bad that my sword wouldn’t swing for 5 seconds after pressing the attack button.

At least with Four Swords and Four Swords Adventures, you had to be in the same room. It might have limited the chances most people had to play the game (not to mention the outlandish price required for such a feat), but the game worked at all times. Triforce Heroes sometimes fails at multiplayer while simultaneously failing at singleplayer.

The original Four Swords never even had a singleplayer component, but Four Swords Adventures allowed players to summon the extra Link’s in different formations. That kind of gameplay feels akin to some classic Bioware RPGs like Icewind Dale or Baldur’s Gate. Why the same type of mechanic wasn’t utilized in Triforce Heroes is beyond my comprehension.

Singleplayer has you tapping the bottom screen to switch between dopples of yourself. It makes for tedious progression; every time you get somewhere with one Link, you need to completely stop and redo it for another. The totem mechanic almost seems to come from frustration in solo play rather than any genuine multiplayer advantage.

There is also a rather limited method of communication for online play. You get emoticons that you can press which are supposed to tell other players what to do. They rarely work. There are no icons for “Do not use item” or “Stop”. You just have a generic “NO!!!” to warn players of anything wrong.

Where is the “Stop Dying” button?!

Trying to specify what needs to be done in a given situation to a totally clueless player is an exercise in frustration. You wouldn’t even believe how many times I ended up yelling at my 3DS when a solution came to me in seconds. To watch others shrug and bumble around like a doofus is maddening.

When everything does click into place, Triforce Heroes is fast and fun. I like that there is actual puzzle solving instead of just murdering enemies like in Four Swords. This feels like a compromise between the two previous multiplayer Zelda titles. It also has a vibe similar to Skyward Sword’s upgrades.

I also can’t stay mad at a Zelda game that calls back to the 2D gameplay from yesteryear. People love to worry about how Nintendo has basically forgotten “classic” Zelda, but they still make these games for us to enjoy. They never buried that tried and true game system.

If anything, I think Triforce Heroes has shown me that I just prefer to take my Zelda alone. To me (and a lot of people), Zelda has been about exploring a new world and conquering it’s many dungeons. It’s been about guiding Link through treacherous paths and perilous situations.

Traveling “literally” anywhere.

Sure, sharing that fun is great, but the real joy comes from figuring out a solution and putting it into action. Without the ability to verbalize that to a friend (or get them to read your mind), the game becomes an exercise in patience and insanity.

Having like minded players makes all the difference. With friends who actually understand Zelda (or being in the same room), you can accomplish what is being thrown at you. Local multiplayer saves the day yet again.

All in all, Triforce Heroes isn’t bad. I rather enjoy it. I just don’t know if I’d ever see myself playing through it again.Four Swords exists mostly as a way to kill time on long flights and Four Swords Adventures is an epic journey with friends.

Triforce Heroes kind of feels like a short trip to an amusement park. It’s fun while it lasts, but you really want to get home after you’ve had your fun. It also sucks to have to deal with people who lack common sense.