Experience – Uniqueness

Due to circumstance, I’ve always been a bit of a console gamer. My reasons for this range from as simple as: Well, I have a PlayStation. To: I don’t like gaming where I write. The latter is especially true. My computer has always been for work strictly. Games provided too much background noise.

That concept changed this year. With the new console generation knocking at my door and demanding to be let in at a ridiculous price with whole bunch of unsurely friends that I don’t want to give the time of day to (Destiny, cough Destiny) I figured I’ll change my pace and get a computer capable of playing games. This goal was helped on by me unwillingly donating my computer to township charity when some smuck from the street broke into my house pre NaNoWriMo 2013 and relieved me of my laptop.

It took me a while to gather the funds but settled for a Toshiba 15’6 screen laptop with a Nvidia Geforce graphic card and a Core i5. I got it on a steal of a deal and although I know the i5 wasn’t ideal it does serve its purpose. Too well.

With desktop gaming came the inevitable exposure to Indie Games. I’ve always thought that Independently Developed games were the same as self-published novels. Ideas that never quite made the cut in big companies that’s… cute but not really worth the effort. (A bit hypocritical I know, but this statement comes from experience Indie Authors. I’ve never really read one book that was self-published that made me go: WTF was wrong with the publishers for not printing this?! I live to be corrected of course and love being proven wrong. And don’t tell me Fifty Shades of Grey was self-published in the beginning. That DOES NOT prove my point!!).

Getting off of THAT rant…

It turned out that indie gaming was more defined. It was independent developers standing up and saying: You know what, I’m going to make a game that I like. I’m going to take a risk and put something together that is unique. You won’t find an Assassin’s Creed serial in indie gaming, nor something as stretched out and thin of plot as Call of Duty or Battlefield. If I reflect on 2014 I hardly paid any mind to ANY of the triple A games (ok exception: Shadow of Mordor, Dragon Age (Damn you Bioware, DAMN YOU), Alien Isolation, I intend to bed you as soon as you become cheaper) and ended up filling my palate with Indie games downloaded from Steam and GOG.com. I have to confess that I would never have looked at them if it wasn’t for my mate Ris but I have and now there’s no coming back.

The fact is that every one of them deserves a review. Deserves notice and mention. And, as time presents itself, I’ll certainly do so.  What pulled me to the various games is their difference in presentation and the experiences that they provide. That risks and effort that I saw the developers put in. Last year saw Call of Duty Ghosts marketed with the phrase: We have a dog.

I can’t imagine a less thought out and slap dash advertisement campaign than that. Assassin’s Creed is marketed by “The Ultimate Multiplayer Experience.” My thoughts on THAT was: Well skippy do arseholes, join the line. I’m not sure whether this is just a part of growing up but I’m just not interested in all these franchises anymore because there is nothing new. The only new game (2013, yes, I know I’m behind) that I can think of to mention was The Last of Us. And it wasn’t that unique (stealth, killing, fighting off infected) as it was simply fantastically executed.

I’m not saying that all indie games are good, not all novels are either, but the gems that have come to light not only have replay value, but it has a charm that leads me to become bolder and taking risks with purchases. I want to give these people my money. Their games might not be as graphic loaded as the top developers but they pull me in and keep me. I had a look at my logs the other day to see which 5 games I’ve put the most time into in the past 2 years and the list was surprising.

It read like this:

Not only did Indie Games wrap up the top and bottom of my list, but they stood proudly among games that I found to be arguable some of the best time I’ve wasted in my life. (I’ll not think about the fact in general that, if I had actually just bothered to write in those hours, at a pace of 2000 words per hour, I could’ve had a series of 2,8 million words…). And the triple A games like Mass Effect cost me over R700 (About $50) to purchase – Don’t Starve cost me (or rather Ris, who gave it to me) R70 ($5). If you bring in the words: “return on investment,” Indie Games win.

I’ve become somewhat bitter about the big releases, about the future of gaming. I’m not sure whether I’ve just been at it for too long, but the truth is that I’m not excited by new big releases anymore. I look at the games and go ‘meh’. Or: Ag. Ok. Maybe. Someday. And then go back and try and save my village from starvation in Banished. The reality of my life is that, despite the figures presented above, I actually have very little time to put into games. So, if I have a moment to do so, I want to make it worth my own while. Rechewing the pimped out plot of Infamous (which should’ve stopped at 2 – just saying) or staring at another plot holed filled Resident Evil scene doesn’t strike me as time well spend.

Again, I live to be proven wrong and I have looked into my future and seen myself sitting beside a PlayStation 4. Because inevitably some big flashy company IS going to cough out something that I want. But that time isn’t now. This is the time for developers like Klei Entertainment to keep me up in the middle of the night.

For fledgling companies like Hinterland Studios to keep me at the edge of my seat.

This is the time of Indie Developers.

Beyond the Mirror’s Edge

And, on top of everything else, I’m a gamer as well…
I finished a game today and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. It’s called Mirror’s Edge and it was released in 2008 though I only managed to get my hands on it now because the second hand game became affordable (I use PS3). Having grown up with Lara Croft (Tomb Raider, I’ve finished every single one) I can be quite critical on my games. I realize that there are many other great games out there, but for me – the busty Tomb Raider will for ever be the standard to live up to. Generally, I like a strong female character to be present in my games, I like good puzzle solving, a good story line, good graphics and good music. If you give me three out of the five, I’m pretty content.
Mirror’s Edge provided four.
The story line’s basic but unique (which in my book would make it good). You are a runner called Faith in a supposedly perfect city where people have given up their freedom and privacy in exchange for a utopia like world. They are monitored everywhere by CCTV cameras and police in order to assure that everything runs smoothly. Faith works for a firm that opposes this perfect world and who uses runner’s like her to exchange messages with other revolutionaries who distrust electronic communication. When the mayor of the city is killed, Faith’s sister (who works for the police and doesn’t approve of Faith’s way of life) is framed for the murder and Faith has to find a way to not only clear her name but save her from an unknown third party with a hidden agenda.
The graphics are great and expansive and although the world isn’t very 3D (bit of a linear playing style in comparison to something like Assasin’s Creed or Tomb Raider Underworld) it’s still amazing just to see. The music is also great, providing a nice background atmosphere without distracting you. There was sadly very little puzzle solving, but in hind sight, you don’t really have time to do much of that as you’re always being chased. You need to be able to think fast though and always think of alternative ways to get around so I guess that in a way, that ‘replaced’ the puzzle solving aspect. The down side is that it made the game very ‘easy’ to finish. Although the combat becomes more intense and the stunts harder to perform, one you’ve mastered the basics it’s just a question of applying it.
The thing that attracted me to this game in the beginning though was actually the theme song called ‘Still Alive’ by Lisa Miskovsky. I heard the song on a trailer for another game and, after some searching, discovered that it was mainly used in this game. It’s a haunting song, that (in sharp contrast to most songs out there) doesn’t go about love, but about life and how to survive. It’s also perhaps the theme of this game as one of the characters say at some point – there’s more to life than just surviving. The story’s not fuelled by passion or obsession, rather one character’s struggle and strives to keep her sister alive. It showed that, no matter how opinions can differ – at the end of the day, family is family and you should do anything to protect it.

Although it didn’t provide hours of engrossed playing, I loved this game – and can highly recommend it to anybody else. The thing is that I’m not just in it for the gaming, I’m in it for the story and how the characters can teach me something about myself or other characters I have. Mirror’s Edge did just that for me. And, it provided a great escape.