Avox in Arcadia (perpetual) wrote,
Avox in Arcadia

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The Kairos 30-Day Meme: Six Favorite Video Games

This is a queued entry and does not reflect my current status. A new post will appear each day this month, but to preserve novelty, the categories that I used won’t be listed publicly beforehand. If you’d like to use my template, let me know and I’ll privately send you the complete list of categories so that you can rearrange and swap them out to suit yourself.

If you don’t want to bother with the entire meme but still want to play, it is highly encouraged to list some of your own favorites for today’s category in the comments.

Day Six: Video Games

I'm not a hardcore gamer but there are times there's nothing like wasting a few hours making some meaningless progress on a brilliant work of mixed media. Six seemed like just the right number of them to single out.


To be honest, if this game didn’t give me such a warm nostalgic glow from my teenage memories of playing it with my long-distance friends whenever we were all together, it probably wouldn’t have made the list. Except, if not for those friends, I probably wouldn’t have ever played it at all. And if it weren’t such a great game, those friends probably wouldn’t have introduced me to it.

It’s a hand-to-hand fighting game that doesn’t really break the mold of the genre in any way that I can see. What made it so much fun was the massive library of special moves, unique to each character, and the skill and practice it took to pull them off. You could also get by mashing buttons, which is what I usually did, but while we were passing around the controllers, we were also sharing tips, and eventually you’re bound to make your character do something that looks really cool (and hopefully also does a lot of damage) -- on purpose!

I’ve heard that the moves are based on real martial arts, which makes sense, but the animation is the only realism to be found, and thank goodness for that. My friends and I played version 3, and at the time it seemed like the graphics were amazing. Later in life I purchased Tekken 5 for myself, and then it was the difference that was amazing. The graphics and the gameplay aren’t just the game’s best features, they’re its only features: it’s all about the illusion of detailed humans (for the most part) attacking each other without (for the most part) any magic powers, which the player can repeat over and over again just to get at all the little variations.

Nevertheless, I ended up getting attached to some of the characters. It wasn’t their ridiculous bios or cut scenes, it was the design. One is a cop who looks like Jackie Chan, two are rival sisters, one is a panda, etc. The fighting style for each one either fits the character’s appearance, or turns the character into something other than the kind of person you expected.

There’s no video game or engineered social condition that could bring back those days. But if you want to come over and slack and drink some Surge...FIGHT ME!


I can’t really play this game for long, or even watch other people playing it, since I’m very susceptible to visually-induced motion sickness, and, well:

You’d think I would have negative associations with a game that makes me sick, but no. The first time I played it, I felt like it was the answer to some buried emotional need that had never been satisfied, like I never knew it, but all I really wanted in life was to roll up objects into a giant ball.

The mechanics are so smooth! You just steer your little guy around the room/area, and all of the objects you roll over get added to your katamari! And the objects are cute.

Also there are these surreal cylindrically-headed royal family characters who seem to be representing some kind of storyline. Occasionally the King bops around in a loading screen that’s even worse than gameplay for the motion sickness.

I’m not very good at it. I’ll probably never beat it, in any version. I just like knowing it’s there.


This one might be unique in that it’s the only game that had me at the preview. Someone said, “Check this out, it’s a first-person shooter puzzle game,” and I obligingly looked at his monitor to learn what that might be, and then I giggled, because the preview was funny.

I haven’t been paying attention throughout most of the history of video games, but it seems to me, or at least it did at the time, that style took a long time to catch up to technical advancement. Movies have done the same thing, to a lesser degree -- if they were showcasing an impressive display of special effects, they would skimp on the acting and the writing, and the only stylistic signature would be the norm of its era. For games, that usually meant that the humor was silly and the drama was juvenile, even (especially?) if it was meant for mature audiences.

But Portal was more than a crisply rendered environment and a novel use of physics to move through it. Portal was witty. It was intriguing. There were increasingly difficult puzzles to solve, an overarching mystery, running jokes, disturbing or outright scary moments, and some excellent voice acting that was used sparingly for maximum effect. You never encounter another human, and can only see your avatar if you line up the portals just right, but the evil AI hounding you at every level is full of character and sometimes you want to cuddle the little robots that are trying to kill you.

Wouldn’t you know, I haven’t finished this one either (although I’ve seen the ending). Yes, I’m aware that there’s a sequel and it’s even more highly rated. By now, this list has probably revealed that there aren’t really any games I’m that good at, and that I crawl through them slowly if I like them. If I’m not spellbound, I quit early. Beginning a game that I already know I’m going to like is a pretty serious commitment that I refuse to rush into.

Speaking of commitment, I know everyone else is sick to death of Weighted Companion Cube memes but I never will be. I have the overpriced plush up in the guest bedroom, and let me tell you those things do not age well, especially if you have cats. There’s something about seeing internet jokes and fandom in the real world that I just find irresistible.

Portal was so popular that I didn’t even have to join a fandom to benefit from the memes. It’s a rare sensation to share a current obsession with the world. Thanks, Portal!

Pokémon GO

I’m not sure what there is to say about this game, now that we’re at the point where everyone has heard of it and many are over it. Am I over it? Not yet. I suppose it’s coming, but right now I’m still of the mindset that it’s a good thing if more people quit, because then there will be less competition at the gyms.

For someone who likes video games and 100% completion but doesn’t want to put in the requisite hours to get there, mobile app games are a dream come true. You pull them out whenever you’re stuck somewhere for a few minutes -- in line, at the bus stop, waiting for someone -- and make a modicum of progress having lost nothing. In this case, you can also redeem a walk you didn’t want to be taking, or improve one that you did, converting the “grinding” part to physical exercise and adding an element of scavenger hunt.

At least, that’s the idea. We all know that what really happens is that you get addicted to the game and before you know it you’re checking the app every time you might be able to catch a Pidgey or clock a few steps. If you’re in this boat with me I can’t help you. We just have to face the fact that this is what a successful game looks like.

The only goal is to Catch the proverbial ‘Em All, so eventually I’m going to have to ask myself how plausible that really is. I’m concerned that new Pokemon are being added to the game. Couldn't they have waited for me to get all of the first batch first, and then get bored with it and then come back when it’s expanded? Only seems fair.

Here’s a screenshot of me and my buddy. I know, it just looks like any old trainer and Tyrogue. You know what I’d like more than new Pokemon? Customizable Pokemon! Like, imagine if this guy had a little hat. Damn, I should be an exec.

World of Warcraft

Yup, I used to play this. It was years ago and (surprise!) I wasn’t that good at it, so I don’t know anything current about it and trust me, you don’t want me to come back and join your guild. But it’s a great game. In fact, it’s so great that I can only describe it by first listing the only two problems I have with it.

First is that in an online environment, it matters when you’re not that good. When you try to play cooperatively, your teammates get pissed at you for blundering. If you keep to yourself, you miss out on a lot of quests and can be considered rude. (I once glanced at the chat for the first time in about an hour and was surprised to find that I had been inadvertently ignoring someone’s plea to resurrect him, since I was of the class and level for it and the only one around. He had cussed and blocked me about ten minutes before I noticed. Also, I didn’t know I could get the resurrection spell.)

Second is that it’s too complete. You’ve got your realtime combat, leveling system, enormous map, social play, farming, detailed character modification, various storylines, and a full fantastical mythology and great graphics to go with it all. New content, I assume, is still being added all the time, so if you feel like playing a video game, you will never, ever run out of things to do in this one.

That’s a feature, not a bug. For that matter, so is my other complaint. I quit playing because I could see how easy it would be for my life to turn into The Guild if I continued. I also began to get bored, but that applied to videogames in general -- maybe it was when marathoning quality TV became the new national geek pastime.

As of now I don’t anticipate ever wanting to play WoW again. I love the world, classic Tolkienesque/D&D-evolution fantasy with enough twist to make it its own thing, but I’d still probably want to dip my toes into a different MMORPG if I ever again happened to have the urge to succumb to that kind of timesuck. But there’s a reason that WoW is the king of its genre, and if you ask me to choose a side, I’m not going to waffle and I’m not going to say it’s irrelevant to anyone who isn’t an active player.


Final Fantasy VIII

I’m not like all the other gamers. I’m special.

There are currently fifteen games in the main Final Fantasy series, with various spin-offs and extras. Many are very highly regarded, and rated well within the genre or indeed among all games. The eight installment is not one of them. In fact, the eighth installment doesn’t even make most lists of the best Final Fantasy games.

Although there’s plenty I could say in defense of my favorite game, this meme is subjective and I’m well aware that the greater part of my affection came from the conditions under which I was introduced to it. I was a teenager. I had never played a video RPG, and didn’t even own a console. The game came to me along with a PSX on long-term loan from a friend, and I started it on the household’s sole TV and finished it in my freshman dorm room.

The addictive quality of single-player platform games certainly affected me, but I felt like I had discovered more than a video game genre. It was a new art medium, one that combined the interactive aspect with an epic fantasy story, beautiful visuals, and music (I’m fairly indifferent to the music, but it’s part of the whole). When you play, you experience the story, not because you’re controlling it, but rather the opposite -- what happens to the characters happens to you, even if you’ve strived to avoid it. I got hung up on the thought that each “Game Over” is an alternative ending to the journey: imagine that the quest to save the world could come to this, taken down by a random encounter with a Marlboro.

So it made sense to assume that the sensation had more to do with the style of game than that particular game, but nothing else has ever really won me over. I tried the much-lauded FFVII next, and I couldn’t take the grim setting seriously when it was populated by blocky little sprites. I played FFX and found the voice acting took something away instead of adding to it. FFIX might be the only other happy medium in the series. It’s on my agenda, but I know it won’t be the same, and not just because the novelty has worn off.

See, discovering a playable illustrated story is exciting, but what really mattered in the end was that the story was good. Early on, you learn that the characters are mercenaries, that the oldest is eighteen, and that they’re often sulky, high-strung, or unreasonable. These elements are all standard enough in an adventure-fantasy that I never gave them much thought, but I’ve been reading some articles on the game lately, and they pointed out the connection for me -- this is a story about child soldiers. They’re unstable because they went straight from an orphanage to a battle school. With that in mind, you can go straight from wanting to give Squall a good smack to wanting to give him a firm hug.

The plot goes all over the place, of course, it covering a decently large world map and enough hours to make your family start kicking you off of the sole TV. You go from a train heist to an ancient temple to outer space, etc. That’s all part of the fun, but it’s the humanity that makes it memorable: Irvine revealing that he’s the only one who hasn’t lost his memory, Squall’s unexpected aptitude for leadership, Rinoa’s misgivings subtly showing through in her body language in the post-battle victory dance animation.

Over the years I returned to it periodically, on consoles of my own...and I’m playing it again now. I’m sixty hours in. Squall’s at level 100. I’m stuck at the Eden side quest.
Tags: 30 day meme, a game i played, a show i watched, links

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