Pain and Disorder

Tragedy strikes without warning. Life can be sunny and carefree in one instance and suddenly become bleak and hopeless. While most people can accept the obstacles that life throws at them, others have an exceedingly difficult time dealing with loss.

Disorder deals with one such individual. A young boy loses his younger brother and vanishes into his mind. He removes himself from life and wishes to be gone. He just can’t accept that his brother is no longer with him. He suffers from some mental illness, be it depression, bi-polar or schizophrenia.

I’ve had a long battle with depression. It conquered me for years before I even admitted I needed help. As a child, you don’t even see the symptoms before you. Your mind is so devoid of routine that you grow content with the negative patterns. I believed that I was supposed to be a miserable individual.

What really reignited the fires of despair was the death of my aunt. I have gotten over her passing, but my world was torn asunder in that moment. I lost my faith, I began to question even the most basic tenets of happiness and I withdrew from my friends. I didn’t feel worthy enough.

Disorder represents this, albeit in short text blocks. Your character truly does not see redemption for himself, almost as if he caused the death of his brother. When you are wallowing in the depths of misery, even the slightest problem becomes your own.

What works exceptional in the game is how both misery and happiness are combined. Humans are not one dimensional beings; we often need sadness to cope with certain events. If we shrugged off death as some random occurrence, we may have never evolved as a society.

Often times, being somber is what helps us see a different solution. When you are perpetually happy, you tend to overlook the sadness that may exist in someone’s heart. It becomes difficult to understand why they aren’t feeling elated at every opportunity.

Not everyone suffers the same tragedy. For some people, their lives may be devoid of loss. While we all eventually die, one can be born into a young family. You may not lose a grand-parent until you are well into your 40’s.

If that is the first time you experience death, how do you cope? A game like Disorder shows that no matter the age, we all wish to have done something differently. Be it we sacrificed ourselves or took a different course, we all want a second chance.

Now, I do believe the game is a bit vague for it’s own good. To best empathize with someone, we need to know their full story. Disorder drip-feeds it’s narrative with vignettes. You will only learn more of the plot after getting through some platforming sections.

You never do quite see the full truth. Even the two endings give vastly contrasting ideas of what may have transpired. Without that deeper connection, Disorder comes off as not brave enough. It wraps itself up in mental illness, but makes no statement.

Every piece of media doesn’t need to have an opinion; sometimes getting the mind firing is enough for some people. Whose to say that Disorder won’t ignite a person’s passion for psychology? Having played both this and Depression Quest, I feel Disorder makes the subject matter more approachable for people not interested in reading text.

Mental illness is something that might be more prevalent in gamer culture then we realize. Instead of shying away from discussions, we as a collective whole should be thinking of creative ways to display the effects of such a disease.

If nothing else, gaming allows one to experience another point of view. Film can only showcase what one person does in a given situation. Gaming gives the player the ultimate control and asks them to interpret what they see.

Disorder isn’t a perfect game, but it certainly earns the right to exist. I can only hope that someone else sees what chaos depression can reap and looks to fix that within their life or their loved one’s.

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A Matter of Perspective

Have you ever played a game that you just loathed? Why, exactly, did you dislike the game? Did you legitimately hate the experience, or did user feedback and reviews taint your opinion? I recently finished Kane And Lynch: Dead Men and I’m a bit confused about the whole thing.

Honestly speaking, nothing is broken in the game. I wouldn’t go out of my way to call it a good game, but I had a few decent hours of enjoyment with my friend Jim. We laughed at how stupid the dialog was and even how crappy the graphics were. We yelled at the inability to skip cutscenes, especially when they were linked to checkpoints.

More importantly, though, neither of us could figure out why there was so much hate for the game. This is really the game that got Jeff Gerstmann fired? Why did GameSpot even care? I understand a 6 out of 10 isn’t glowing, but nothing in the game is offensive in its design.

I really do believe that a lot of the hate comes from the controversy surrounding it. Not only that, but people have heard the game is bad so, suddenly, everything is bad about it. I’ve heard a sentiment like that echoed to me when seeing films with friends. If you go in expecting the movie to be garbage, you usually leave hating the film.

I’ve now been thinking about a lot of games I previously condemned. Maybe they weren’t all that bad? I have been an ardent speaker against the quality of Halo, but what if those games truly aren’t terrible? I even enjoyed Halo: Reach, so there obviously is something to the formula that I like.

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Maybe something like Duke Nukem Forever isn’t even that bad. I remember despising every second of that game, but what if I just tempered my resolve by soaking in the negative reviews? Everyone was giving the game a 3 out of 10, so it clearly had to be the worst thing ever. Do I really want to play it again to find out?

The one game I regret not finishing is Bioshock 2. While I know for a fact that I just do not enjoy anything about it, I really think I’m not giving it a fair judgment. I wasn’t even that big of a fan of the first Bioshock game, so why did I just end up hating its sequel? I mainly found revisiting Rapture to be a squandered opportunity.

I can cite the Dynasty Warriors games as things I really like. I don’t read any kind of reviews for them and typically spend close to 100 hours with each game. They are so simple in their design and tactile in their feedback that I find it impossible to put down. The reviews wouldn’t agree with me, though.

Lollipop Chainsaw was also another game that wasn’t so warmly received. A lot of people just hate that game, though I think that has more to do with Suda51’s reputation. I managed to finish that four times in the span of three days and had a good bit of fun with it.

The Yakuza series is also something that isn’t so welcomed in the West. I believe that to be one of the best series of the last decade and a true classic in every regard. There are definitely some awkward design choices as far as controls are concerned, but getting an old-school brawler adapted to a masterfully-written plot makes up for any faults in my eyes.

As the old saying goes, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” If you truly like something enough, express that love to others. If you are venomously against it, do not be afraid to speak your mind. Progress will never commence if you keep opinions to yourself. Obviously you don’t need to be harsh, but that does sometimes get the point across.

To sum this all up, I really don’t think Kane and Lynch is that bad. There are a few neat levels and the premise is really unique. I can’t speak too much about the sequel, but that’s mainly because I quit in a disgusted rage after the first hour.

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I had come to an epiphany about perspective on games and the sequel made me hate all over again. Oh, well.

Apparently the Dreamcast Sucks…

I hate video game reviews. I truly do. With this week’s release of Jet Set Radio HD, I’m just reminded of how deep my hatred for what game reviewing has become. How can a website rightfully justify giving a classic a 4.5 when they previously rated it a 9?

Now, I understand that tastes change and people move away from the things they used to love, but how does a quintessential Dreamcast title suddenly become something broken and unpolished? For that matter, was the Dreamcast ever worth owning? All I’ve been seeing from the re-releases of its “classics” are reviews that top off at 6 out of 10.

It just boggles my mind to try and figure out how a game becomes so awful over the course of a decade. I haven’t played a single title from my youth in recent years that hasn’t held up to some degree. Sometimes awkward dialog or story progression rear their ugly heads, but level design and controls have always been a constant for me.

If I disliked the way the camera moved or the way combos were executed back in the day, I clearly remember all of that and expect it in the future. Hell, sometimes games I disliked back in the day are actually better with age, so what gives with “Jet Set Radio?”

I’m also getting really tired of reviewers claiming that titles are antiquated or feel old and that is their reason for being bad. Well, why do new games like “Castle Crashers” and “Scott Pilgrim” come out and get high marks for being old-school and retro? The contradiction doesn’t make sense to me. You can’t praise one thing for the same reason you hate another!

For that matter, old games don’t suddenly become bad over the years. I understand that the philosophy behind developing anything should be to improve on the predecessors, but I still enjoy “Super Mario World” and “Street Fighter II,” despite the fact that their sequels may have improved in certain regards.

Not that film or music can even really compare to video games, but you don’t see Roger Ebert going back and claiming “Hotel Rwanda” actually sucks. When he states that his opinion of a movie is positive, he always sticks to it. Just because things have changed in cinema or methods or production doesn’t mean that Rwanda is no longer worth it.

Sorry, I can’t control this properly anymore!

If I go and ask my friend if she still likes the older Dave Matthews albums, she’s not going to say no! I don’t dislike old Tool albums or Daft Punk, either, despite their styles changing and evolving over the years. When something is good, it is good!

My only real understanding of this situation comes with my old passion for Slipknot. I used to love their direct and dirty style of metal, but as I grew older and broadened my range of music, I drifted away from them. I no longer listen to them and I don’t really have the desire to.

I still recognize their greatness, though. Nothing is wrong with the band and their music will always be a shining example of power/hard metal done right. Hell, their live album is fucking insanely good!
In fact, I went and re-beat “Super Mario Land” last night just for fun. That game is still good. I have lots of nostalgia for it (it was my second Gameboy game ever), but the title is a quick, quirky, fun little game and is well worth playing through. Hell, it’s even better now because of how similar newer Mario games are becoming.

Maybe I just hold video games closer to my heart? I really can’t make up an excuse or claim my passion is stronger, though. That’s very selfish. I’m just finding it hard to understand how “Jet Set Radio” is now considered a waste of time when it was once proclaimed to be a revelation.

I suppose my friend Corey sums it up the best, though.