#367: The Haunted

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Have you ever played a game called Luigi’s Mansion? It’s one of my favorite games of all time, and I think I’ve written about it before. Regardless, I’ll be writing about it again, and hopefully under a new title this time!

Luigi’s Mansion is one of those games where, regardless of how many times you play it, the gameplay never gets old. It’s a game whose gameplay is timeless and plays fluidly regardless of what year you’re playing the game in. The core of the game, sucking up ghosts into your super-powered vacuum and turning them into portraits at E Gadd’s lab, has stayed the same throughout all of its iterations. But the nature of the game has adapted over time, leading us to Luigi’s Mansion 3, which has really turned the series back to its roots more than before. Instead of it being about five different haunted places with individual levels and segments between each place, this new game returns to one big haunted place for you to explore and discover treasure inside. It’s truly capturing the feel of the original in a way that makes me pretty happy.

Luigi’s Mansion also has some personal history behind it, and I think I’ve mentioned this in the other blog post I did about the game. My friend Jimmy and I used to speed run through the game, and we took turns beating each other. I used to beat him more often than not, though, and I learned the ins and outs of the game quickly. It’s the kind of game that incentivizes multiple playthroughs because you earn a larger and more elaborate mansion at the end depending on how much money you collected and how rare the portraits are. Essentially, the game may be short, but you are expected to play it more than once to get the full experience. I kind of love that about games.

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#363: The Fallout

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This won’t necessarily be about the Fallout game series or about fall as a season; instead, I’ll be discussing the ways in which fallout inside a community can be handled. There’s been major fallout recently after some spoilers came out for a certain game which I won’t name here, as I don’t want to spoil anyone by association.

But here’s the thing. Sometimes endings don’t go how people plan them to go. Sometimes endings don’t end up the way the fans want them, and sometimes that happens regardless of all the clamoring people have done for an appropriate ending to the series.

The way that the original game ended was fantastic. It was cohesive, fit the themes of the story, and overall made sense. Invoking this third arc out of nowhere really tears down on what made the first game click for me. It blows up the foundation of a really compelling and thematically-consistent story just to mess with things for the sake of it. In reality, stories need to be consistent and need to have a flow to them in order for them to make sense. A story that already exists in a perfectly fine context doesn’t need forced content to make it better, if anything it needs more development of existing content and characters who feel left out. That’s what gets me about this whole new game; there are areas that need improvement that are just thrown to the wayside to push new content instead.

A game’s ending also has to be satisfying in some way. It doesn’t necessarily have to be positive, but the player has to feel like it was at the very least all worth the time and investment. An ending has to click, and if it doesn’t, people will feel like they wasted their time on nothing.

#360: The Xbox

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Get it? Because it’s #360 and the Xbox 360 was the previous generation’s console title?

Before I became a huge PC gamer, I was invested in my Xbox 360, a white and grey-colored console that sometimes flashed red with the ring of death whenever it screwed up. I used to play tons of games on it, namely Rock Band 2 with my friends at sleepovers and gatherings, Gears of War 1 and 2 with other friends during other gatherings, and Halo 3. I’ve talked about Halo in a previous blog post, I’m sure, and I think it was #343 (because of the number again.) Halo was meaningful to me in so many ways, and I couldn’t begin to encapsulate it all in 300 words. But today I’ll be discussing some of the other games that mattered to me on that console.

Castle Crashers, which wasn’t exclusive to the Xbox but I owned via the Live Store, was how I spent many nights of the week online. Bashing and crashing monsters and foes of all types with my trusty sword (or other weapons, who knows) was one of my favorite pastimes. I liked going into the desert levels especially, because there were tons of foes to fight and they served as great practice dummies. To me, sometimes the simple things matter the most.

I also played a ton of Worms: Revolution, another game that wasn’t exclusive to the Xbox but I owned anyway. My friends and I had tons of fun nuking each other across the map with missiles and projectiles and other ridiculous, wacky weapons. The game had a light-hearted feel to it and everything worked together well. I would still recommend it, to be honest, even though I haven’t touched it in years. It has a lasting appeal that’s memorable to me regardless. I also used to play it with some of my Twitter friends.

#344: The Halo, Part 2

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This post is a continuation from my previous one, so if you haven’t read that one yet, you might want to so that this one makes sense to you.

Halo 3 forge mode changed my life, the same way playing Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare made me one with the cool kids at school I wanted to be friends with. It felt like I was on the same level as them, and my skill in this game mattered to them in some ways. If I did well in Call of Duty or Halo, that meant I was skilled and they would respect me in some way. Video games were then an avenue towards social acceptance. My parents likely didn’t realize this connection at the time, but when I was online playing multiplayer matches on my Xbox on the living room TV, it was because I saw it as a way for me to make unlikely friends. Even to this day, video games have brought together people and communities I didn’t realize were possible.

Halo is where all my high school friends played. It feels so nostalgic to me not necessarily because of the game’s quality, but because it represents something to me, an era of gaming, that’s passed and won’t be repeated again. We’ve all moved on and lead different lives than we did then, and I don’t have the contacts of everyone I used to have. Joe, for example, and Steve are nearly impossible to communicate with these days, and they were both a huge part of that time period of my life. It’s odd to think back on those days and the people I spoke with then, how drastically that has changed from here to now. I talk to different online friends, and times have changed with my habits and proclivities.

#338: The Crossword

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Back in the day, when Alex and I first started dating, one of our best routines was hanging out on a Wednesday night and completing the Hamden newspaper’s weekly crossword puzzle together. I remember buying her a book of crossword puzzles back then, probably for a special occasion as one of our series of gifts, and we still have that book and plan on using it again tonight, hopefully. Being in touch with our former selves is a good way of rekindling past memories, and it brings character and nostalgia to our lives. I strongly support doing as many joint activities like that as you can with your partner as a way of building your relationship and making sure it has special attachments to certain things. Our mug collection, for example, has a lot attached to it and each individual mug could be its own blog post on this. Maybe one day I’ll do something like that… As a way of preserving their origins before we inevitably forget them.

Regardless, completing crosswords is romantic to us. I know that sounds super nerdy, and it is, but it’s the kind of activity we can do together that keeps our attention and uses our brains. It’s perfect for the two of us, and it allows us to collaborate and cooperate on an end goal: that is, completing the objective that is the crossword puzzle in front of us. Some puzzles are notoriously difficult and come down to the wire, where we end up having to look up a clue because we simply wouldn’t be able to figure it out with all the available hints and letters. In those moments, we don’t feel too much shame in completing the puzzle; it’s a matter of our knowledge being limited for the time being. That’s all.

#334: The Back Tattoo

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I’m pretty sure I’ve already written a blog post called “The Tattoo,” and in order to avoid repeating myself over and over again, I came up with a new title for this one, called “The Back Tattoo.” And I actually have pictures this time to match the description I’m giving it! So I’m excited about that.

Over this past weekend, Alex got a new tattoo, this time of our shared favorite character from the Persona 5 video game, Makoto Niijima. Makoto is the student council president of the game’s high school setting, and she joins the Phantom Thieves as their adviser and planner. She’s strong, smart, and deeply loyal and caring towards the people she loves. She’s also totally badass and comes up with brilliant plans that ultimately save people’s lives. As a character, I’m a huge fan of hers and so is Alex. When we were playing Persona 5 over the summer together, it was fun to talk about the characters and share elements of the story with each other. I used to text Alex pictures of their text conversations and general story happenings to keep her in the loop on things, and Makoto was one character that Alex seemed to take more of an interest in.

Having a smart character balance their maturity with their desire to fit in with others makes for a super relatable story. As you can see in the tattoo though, she’s definitely not the kind of character to pull punches. She enters the fray with nuclear magic, aikido training, and her overall intelligence to strategize and assess the situation. Now that she’s in tattoo form on Alex’s body, it’ll always be a reminder of the strength that’s required to survive and how powerful she really is. I’m super excited to see it finished in November when all is said and done.

#329: The Club

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One of my coworkers and I are great fans of Dungeons & Dragons, and if you’ve read this blog before, you probably already knew that. I’ve played the game for a long time, still don’t totally get it, but I try my best with what I have and I improvise a lot of the time to make sure things make sense. It’s not easy to just pick up the game and become familiar with it without having a really talented DM in your group who’s willing to show you the ropes. I’m joining another group soon that’s going to have a very experienced DM, and I’m super looking forward to having a better grasp on the rules.

But besides the point, we are starting a Dungeons & Dragons club after school for the next eight or seven weeks on Wednesdays. It’s something we’ve both been looking forward to, as a result of other mutual interest in the game, but also because we know it has a lot of educational benefit to students. Imagination, creativity, role-playing, mathematical thinking, creative problem-solving and ingenious maneuvers. This game is full of ways to keep players on their toes and force them to think differently before moving into a task. There’s really nothing like a game of Dungeons & Dragons. The educational benefit is clearly there, and I know that the students get excited thinking and talking about it. After our first meeting, I gained some people’s favor by discussing it with them afterwards. I think being relaxed and open about it is the way to go, and you can’t stress them out too much with the details. It makes sense to get them excited and everything but as a teacher you have to keep a calm demeanor no matter what. I’m looking forward to this week and whatever next week entails.

#324: The Legend

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Reaching legend rank in Hearthstone has been a dream of mine for awhile, though I’ve never quite achieved it yet. It’s still one of those few gamer achievements that’s eluded me, like getting above gold rank in Overwatch competitive league. At least in this case, this is a fairly achievable thing that I can imagine myself getting. It just involves a lot of grinding and working towards a goal, without stopping anywhere in the middle. If I actually put some effort into it, I’m sure I could reach legend some day with the right deck. And then I’d memorialize that deck forever, if it were to happen. I’d keep the deck in my collection as a standard and then wild deck, with the title “this is what got me to legend, I will never get this rid of this ever.” Although that’s probably too long a title to have at once. I think it only allows a few words at most!

I mention getting to legend because I’m currently playing Hearthstone, and it’s something I can maybe see myself achieving this season. It’s within my reach and I can almost taste it. Unfortunately for me, there are only a select few amount of days left in the season, as each season lasts a month and you’re given until the end of the month to reach legend before your rank is reset back down a bit and your progress is mostly lost. The rank reset has been more forgiving in recent months, after they updated it so that you didn’t lose all of your progress. Now that I’ve made it to rank 7 this season, I’ll probably drop down to about 13 or so when the season resets, unless I can manage to climb up the ladder higher before that happens. We’ll have to see!

#286: The Queue

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Role queue is a new feature recently added to the game Overwatch, and it’s changed everything. Previously, you were able to choose heroes freely, without having to worry about what role they filled. You could have an entire team of damage dealers, or supports, or tanks, and the game would do nothing to stop you from trying that hilarious (but probably ineffectual and frustrating after awhile) strategy. Role queue is meant to fix that problem, among other problems present in the game’s social side of things, by forcing a 2-2-2 team composition on every team that plays in Quick Play or Competitive Play from here on. While initially I was hesitant to accept the limitations towards creative freedom that role lock posed, I became more in favor of the idea the more I heard from people on the PTR who said it drastically improved their playing experiences. They were able to queue for whatever role they wanted, and it didn’t matter what other hero people picked. They knew that their team would be good from the outset, at the very least because it was 2-2-2.

Previously, there was always the lurching fear that your team would descend into total chaos because one of your healers switched to a damage dealer, or your only tank swapped to a healer when you already had three healers. There have been innumerable instances of playing Overwatch where the other team wins over us just because they have a better team composition than we do, and now the field is a bit more level. There can still be times where your two damage dealers are Bastion and Symmetra on Offense on a 2CP map (*cough* *cough*), but at least the odds of that happening are less and less. Eventually, role queue will be coming to Quick Play, and I’m looking forward to that so I don’t have to do Competitive as much!

#282: The Squad, Part 2

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This post is a continuation from my previous post about Monster Hunter and forming a squad online.

Initially, as a fan of the Monster Hunter series, I presumed that the game was primarily solo, with some online multiplayer if you wanted to. But realistically, the entire game’s campaign can be completed online, and that’s what I ended up doing with one of my friends over the past few nights. We’ve been hammering through the campaign at lightning speed, mostly because I have some overpowered weapons and gear right now. It makes for interesting times, and the completions are at record speeds for us. That being said, when I spoke with some of the other members of the squad, they said they’ve been playing long enough that they have kills on some of the late-game monsters in under five minutes. That’s insane for me to even think about, but congrats to them. The person I was speaking with said that if I perfected my builds and practiced, I could do it, too, which left me feeling a bit hopeful about everything. That even a noob like me can one day reach those incredible heights in a game. If you can dream it, you can do it, and all that sappy stuff.

What’s also interesting about having a squad is the feeling of belonging that’s associated with it. It’s so easy to hop right in that I don’t have to worry about feeling left out. Because it’s still currently summer vacation for me, I have the ability to stay up late at night with some extra coffee to play some Monster Hunter with my online friends. Sometimes way late into the night, even though I probably shouldn’t be messing with my sleep schedule so much right before school season begins again. The time is almost coming.