Trump as President

I found out the night of the 8th. I had the NPR radio app on my phone and I got a notification. It read, “Despite all odds, Donald Trump…”, and I thought to myself No way.

You can find the article I read that night here.

As far as I knew, Hillary was ahead in the polls. In fact, many people both citizens and politicians brushed off Trump. According to the NPR article, Trump “bested 16 more experienced rivals in the primary process while spending little on traditional campaign infrastructure and relying on family members for political and media acumen.” Putting Trump’s personality and stances aside, that is an impressive accomplishment. Trump’s unorthodox ways is the reason he’s elected. As a reality TV star, Trump understood the media, people, and people’s emotions.

Despite what some people think, Trump’s goal is not to destroy America. He wants to build it up and “make it great again”. He simply has different ideas and methods on how to do that. It’s a matter of fact that he’s going to be our new president, so all we can do is make the best of it.

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Flow and Telescope of ESO

the-elder-scrolls-online-game-hd-wallpaper-1920x1200-6175ESO poster featuring three characters from the trailer. Image found here.

Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) is the latest game in the Elder Scroll series. This MMORPG has been long anticipated by many Elder Scroll fans. Even if you’ve never heard of it, you can see why it would be loved for its lore, detail, and beauty.

In the book Introduction to Media Literacy, there is are sections in Chapter 7 about electronic games, where MMORPGs are specifically mentioned. Unlike some textbooks that obviously have a bias against video games, this book describes video games spot on.

One example is that they say gamers create the story based on how they play the game. This is more true for some game genres than others. In RPGs and MMORPGs, these games are specifically designed for you to not only put your own twist on the story, but to create the character you play as. The book is also correct in that these games give players a “sense of power and a sense of wonderment.” These features particularly appeal to some players, myself included. I play almost exclusively RPG game for these features.

Not only can you customize the character you play as and change the story in RPGs and MMORPGs, but you can also choose what the objective of the game is. The game supplies you with a world, NPCs, quests, and a main storyline or two. Given this, you choose what you want to do. If you want the objective to be competition, then you find people to fight and level your character to maximum effectiveness. You can also roleplay, which is where the game is just a tool for you to pretend you are your character. Or create a character to be you and you play the game as you. You can also focus on exploration, finding all the secret locations, easter eggs, and hidden quests.

For MMORPGs, flow and telescoping are key characteristics. In the example of ESO,  the world and lore is designed to be immersive. That means it is so detailed and interesting that you are completely immersed for a time. This results in most players enjoying a deep and exciting flow. Telescoping is very important to play MMORPGs well. You can’t be isolated in the moment of the current task. You must complete you current task with the future in mind. If you don’t, the game will make sure you regret it.

In short, this section of Introduction to Media Literacy is the first academic text I’ve seen that accurately describes aspects of video games. The book isn’t for or against video games, but instead is uneditorial in its terms, observations, and descriptions.

The Deep Web is No Secret

With cell phones and computers, it feels like you have the library of the world at your command. You would be grossly wrong.

A person using an average browser (Chrome, FireFox) can only access .03 percent of the Internet’s content .** Perhaps many people are blind to the “deep web”. This is not referring to sites that are morally offensive. This is not referring to “dark social”, which is sharing information that cannot be tracked by standard web analytic programs*. Simply sharing a link to someone via email instead of via social media is considered dark social. So what is the deep web?

Despite being the operating grounds for major illegal activity, the deep web’s main function is to serve users with complete anonymity. As people are becoming more concerned about their privacy, they are resorting to download the deep web browser Tor.** However, if you want your information to be protected, you should think twice about using the deep web to do so.

headerWelcome to the Game welcomes you to the deep web. Image from Steam.

Welcome to the Game is a (perfectly legal) indie game developed by Reflect Studios. This puzzle/horror game simulates what it’s like to explore the deep web. The point of the game is to find codes within the sites of the deep web to unlock a Red Room, a live stream, interactive torture room.*** To quote tvtropes.org, Welcome to the Game “… uses a combination of exaggeration, urban legends, and actual twisted Deep Web content…” to create the atmosphere of the creepy deep web.**** Within the deep web are sites featuring sick personal confessions, family drug businesses, hit-men, human butchers, and satanic cults just to name a few.

This information about the deep web is obviously no secret, seeing as you can search for it on an ordinary browser. The question to be asked is how Reflection Studios came up with such a detailed game about the deep web.

* https://www.techopedia.com/definition/29027/dark-social
** http://www.sickchirpse.com/deep-web-guide/
*** http://store.steampowered.com/app/485380/
**** http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Videogame/WelcomeToTheGame

FNAF – Sister Location

While many indie games require digging to discover, some become popular to the masses. Five Nights at Freddy’s is one of those indie games. Since the first game’s release, many sequels have been released over the past 2 years, both official and unofficial.

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A survival horror game developed by Scott Cawthon. Image.

One of the diving forces behind the game’s popularity, as well as other indie games, is the publicity and advertisement  generated by gaming YouTubers. The latest game developed by Scott Cawthon in the FNAF franchise is Sister Location. The game released Oct. 7 and YouTube star Markiplier released the first episode of his playthrough of it that same day. Not even a week has gone by and that first video has reached over 8.4 million views.

Had the right people not played the FNAF games, the franchise would not be as popular as it is. Regardless of the games’ consistent high quality and interesting stories, no indie game gets mainstream popularity without big names backing it up and endorsing it. Big names also have to include their support quickly to get attention and/or views. Jacksepticeye, another famous gaming YouTuber, was gone the week Sister Location released. Having just released his first playthrough episode Oct. 10, Jack said in his video that, “…everyone probably knows what’s going on already…”.

3 days after a game’s release, an indie game no less, and gamers already know the entire game’s playthrough. That is only possible because of YouTube playthoughs and celebrity endorsements.

Indie Gaming: Trailers

Todays’ trailers for mainstream games are much like movies. Showing off the characters, the sets, environment, the effects, the graphics, the action… and a little bit of the story.

It would appear that indie games are different. Being independently developed, they are different game by nature and thus lend themselves to differently styled trailers. So what are the trends in indie game trailers?

This trailer is made by showing the first minuet of actual gameplay. Video drawn from here.

One is that the focus is on introducing the story. Indie developers have fewer resources for voice actors and graphics, which results in their efforts being placed elsewhere. Indie games may focus on the story, which is then introduced in the trailer as if you where playing the game. Very few mainstream games take the approach of showing the first minuet of gameplay, but it can work very well for indie games.

The gamplay is clearly featured in this trailer. Video drawn from here.

Another trend in indie game trailers is showing the gameplay. Many indie games have to take more consideration into the type of gameplay they use due to their limited resources. Usually the gameplay is chosen to match the feel of the game and story instead of what will show off graphics.

A trailer that depends on a traditional narrator. Video drawn from here.

Lastly, the narrators are independent from the game. In many mainstream gaming trailers, they have ditched inviable narrators and instead have the characters’ dialog from the cutscenes speak. Sometimes words are eliminated and instead rely on visuals, sounds, and music. Since the graphics aren’t usually the focus on indie games, developers may go back to the tradition of narrators. It’s all dependent of the style of the game.

For more examples of indie gaming trailers, see these recent releases.

Are Indie Games Following a Trend?

Whether it be movies, video games, books, or TV shows, many people will agree that it is difficult to come up with or find new stories. Many recent live-action and animated movies have been remakes and relaunches of old movies, stories, or myths. Not that it’s wrong; it’s obviously profitable and we enjoy them.

Independent video game developers know this just as well. It seems to be that developers are starting to focus not on creating new stories from scratch, but to take existing successful stories or formulas and make creative changes to the details, meanings, implications, morals, and visuals.

2889295-4971873187-29236A game where 70s, 80s, and 90s, pop culture and ancient German mythology come together. Image from here.

Lichtspeer is an indie game that released on Steam today. The German developer Bart Pieczonka from Lichthund wanted to make a traditional arcade game. Easy to play, difficult to master, and had no point to it but to have fun.

The base story that is used in this game is that the LichtGods are bored so they command a mortal to fight for their amusement.  We’ve heard of that premise before. Some of us are also familiar with the visuals of pixels, basic shapes, and sharp edges. However, the meaning and details of the game are what give it that indie game vibe.

In a post from IndieGames.com, the developer grew up in the 90s in post-communist Poland. As a result, he grew up watching movies and shows such as Star Wars. The game reflects his childhood as the game’s enemies are a culture clash of western pop culture and Germanic mythology. In addition to his intentions of just making a fun game, Lichtspeer is defiantly style over story.

More about Lichtspeer here.

banner_totemteller_aStories are broken and you decide how they are retold. Image from totemteller.com.

This game is announced to come in 2017. It’s an open world game where stories are destroyed and you choose how to retell them.

As with some other indie developers, they have given us just enough information about the game to get us hooked and the rest is a mystery. Without knowing anything about the story, the visuals and animation alone is enough to turn heads.

Take a look for yourself at their website.

headerA physiological horror game from inside a child’s mind. Image from here.

Fran Bow was developed by Killmonday by two Swedish people armed with creativity. It’s a point-and-click psychological horror game with, literally, many layers to it.

The base story is about an recently orphaned girl who left her mental hospital to find her lost cat. Killmonday took this premise and used it to explore sensitive topics and question what reality really is. They also use an art style similar to a children’s book. Every small detail adds to the environment and helps tell the story.

The game has been long released, but the game’s description on the website leaves Fran Bow just as mysterious as Totem Teller.

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You are the only one who can save the forest and its beauty. Image from here.

As a final example, you can nearly forget that Ori and the Blind Forest is a platform game because of its amazing visuals. It also has a basic story at its core: the forest is dying and our hero has to collect powerful elements to restore it. But after 4 years, Moon Studios has created “…memorable characters in an atmospheric world and… a story that players will truly care about, ” as they say.

Read more from the official website.

So what is the trend that these games are following? Making the player question what they know. Show the player something they’ve never seen before. Take stories they have heard before and change them beyond recognition. The basic stories behind all of these games have been told before and you likely didn’t realize it. It’s a good trend for developers to follow and one players can appreciate.

Indie Gaming News

Welcome to my first blog post in this series. Here, I share some of the recent news concerning this year’s released and developing indie video games. This includes reports about new releases, reviews, playthroughs, and developers. The term ‘indie’ is short for ‘independent’. The term ‘indie’ is used to describe companies or developers that are not large or well-known names.

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This week, RPGwatch.com posted a preview to a new stratagy-RPG, The Dwarves. The developer, KING Art, based the game around Markus Heitz’s first Dwarves novel. Unlike many RPG’s, this game is not open world and instead focuses on a proper story and strategic combat.

The game stars a dwarf named Tungdil. He was raised by a human wizard. As such, Tungdil grew up to be a scholar instead of a dwarven warrior. When he does journey out into the real world, he quickly meets two dwarven brothers who place Tungdil on his path to becoming a proper dwarf.

The visuals are not striving for realism like many modern games, but has a noticeable art style that compliments the fantasy setting. The fantasy setting, dialog, humor, and characters all give the game a traditional Dungeons & Dragons feel. Meanwhile, the combat is similar to MMORPGs, complete with friendly-fire. One interesting combat feature is the pause function. Once paused, you can give each of your characters a command, unpause, and they will perform them simultaneously. The environment, intelligent enemies, friendly-fire, and character skills and cooperation all leads to strategic battles.

For more details and a preview video, Click Here.