Late Review: Horizon Zero Dawn

Imagine stumbling upon an object or place from our ancient past. Intentionally or otherwise, you unearth a piece of history that no one has seen for centuries. Regardless of your views on archaeology, being the first person to wander an unknown tomb, to hold a relic in the palm of your hand, would be a wonderful moment.

Now imagine your discovery is both 1000 years old and from the 21st Century.

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Can a Game Review be Too Late?

I’m thinking of trying something different. Since I returned to my blog I’ve already branched out into talking about table top games , and since I became a dad the perspective from which I write has shifted somewhat. Yet there is still one more thing I want to try: game reviews.

I have never written a review before. I have plenty of reasons why I’ve not thought of doing it before. Firstly, reviews have always felt like a professional writer’s task. My understanding is that reviewers lock themselves away with a game for a long weekend, surging through a game at break-neck speed to meet a deadline. Every week, a new game and a new review added to the catalogue.

But does that matter? It’s nice to know the reviewer has experience, but a review is a stand alone thing, the only reason that a series of reviews are useful is for context. It allows us to see how the reviewer scores games, what a 3 out of 5 actually means from that author, what kinds of games score higher with that reviewer, etc.

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When do you Fast Travel?

The ability to skip sections of a video game has been around for a long time. Think about this mechanical feature for a moment. The creators of a game have poured their sweat and tears (I hope there’s very little blood involved) and spent a considerable amount of time writing and coding, only to give the player an exit. Take cut-scenes for example. Lots of love went into a visual spectacle that drives story and inspires excitement for the gameplay to come. And then the creators add a “press _ to skip” feature.

In one respect, fast travel feels a lot like this. An entire gaming world has been forged for your entertainment, but with built-in a feature that lets you teleport. “We made this to entertain you.” The developers say, “But we put in a button that lets you skip it in case you don’t find it entertaining”. If it can be passed by, why is it in the game?

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Stealth is a Gentlemen’s Game

The bullets fill the air as you tumble down the corridor. You curse your own lapse in judgement. You timed your approach perfectly, took the guard down from behind with one swift and surgical strike, but you failed to spot that second guard. After so much careful espionage, after so much sneaking, one blunder has led to chaos.

For one brief moment, the guards lose sight of you. You change direction abruptly, diving for cover behind a set of unmarked crates. Your pursuers are right on you; it won’t be long before they find out where you went. Crouching low, you scramble to check your ammunition and patch your wounds.

The guards are still searching furiously, moving closer to your position. You take a breath and prepare to defend yourself with maximum efficiency. The nearest guard, mumbling to himself, looms over the crate, tentatively moving to a position where he can see your hiding place. You begin to raise your weapon…

…and then he turns and walks off.

“Well, he got away. Back to my guard post.” He practically doffs his hat in recognition of your skills of evasion, checking his pocket watch to check that, yes, it has been exactly sixty seconds since the chase began. Should you slip up again, he will commence the chase anew, but until then, good day to you, sir or madam.

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The Geek is a Dad: Baby VS Video Games

“Can you remember what life was like before?” That’s the curious question I have heard so many times since becoming a dad four months ago. The notion that life would become so unrecognisable because of a baby is not without its merits. I’ve certainly never in my life had this many conversations about sleep patterns or bowel movements. I do however find some fault in the query. Life has changed and is changing, but I don’t believe it will change so much that I cannot enjoy the things I did before, or that I can’t be the same gamer-teacher-geek I’ve always been.

Admittedly, it’s early days. I think part of the reason I’m writing this is so that I can look back at the ‘father of four months’ version of me further down the line. He’s probably going to seem so naïve (and less grey haired). For now, I am that hopeful sole that sees his fatherhood as a life equally nerdy as what came before. How, when and why I enjoy my geekiness – my video games, Dungeons & Dragons, history and teaching – will change, but the last few weeks have taught me that the Geek is a Dad, and the Dad is always going to be a Geek.

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Gaming Fantasy Dinner Party – Guest Number Six

At last, the table is set. The drinks cabinet is stocked, and the starter is ready to go. The first of my five fictional characters are on their way to my home. There is just one final video game guest to invite to the dinner party.

If you want to see who else I picked, look right here:

It would be presumptuous for me to state that I have ‘saved the best for last’. This sixth and last dinner guest is, however, my first and favourite choice for a video game guest.

I’m not inviting this character because of their personality; compared to the other five guests I know very little about them as a person. I’m also not asking them to join the party because of their legacy. Whilst the other five characters reside in iconic gaming franchises, I’ve only ever played one game which featured this last guest. I only have one, very significant reason to invite this individual: she is from the most integral game of my video gaming life.

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Challenge in Gaming: What’s the best way to be tested?

I began playing Wolfenstein: New World Order a few weeks ago. I started the game in the usual way, by selecting ‘New Game’ and then perusing the available difficulties. I was curious to find a whopping five levels of difficulty available to me. It struck me at that moment that it’s been a very long time since I saw a game settle for an ‘Easy-Medium-Hard’ spread of difficulties. I also found it odd that New World Order was eager to throw so many options at me right out of the gate.

Personally, I could never begin a game on anything except ‘normal’. It makes much more sense to me to attempt a higher difficulty on the second play through, when I have the intricacies of the gameplay sussed. Games will often hide their highest settings, allowing them to be unlocked after the player has gone through the game once. I struggle to imagine anyone running headlong into Wolfenstein’s “ÜBER” setting on their first go and then enjoying the experience.

It’s not that I don’t think people would enjoy the most difficult setting. It’s the level of challenge present that I think would turn first-time players away. Playing a games ‘extreme’ difficulty is meant to be taxing, but if a player has mastered a game’s ‘normal’ setting, they can gauge for themselves whether they will be able to take on something greater. Whether or not a Gamer enjoys ‘challenging’ games, every game challenges us in some way and it’s up to us to decide how enjoyable that is.

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