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    Apr 6th, 2015 at 17:06:37     -    Defcon (PC)

    Well, I'm rethinking Defcon. I still don't love the game play. I mean, it's fine, I guess, but I don't feel like I got a ton out of it, and it would really only be fun for me if I were playing with friends, in the same room. Also, whereas I couldn't even win before, now I feel like losing against computers is pretty much impossible so long as you have a brain. In my last game, I had only one nuke hit my territories, and I annihilated the opponent using only half of my nukes. I guess I'm just a little bit unimpressed with the game as a whole. Not really fun, not very intellectually stimulating, and really easy to win once you figure out the controls, which are less than intuitive.

    In terms of ethics, I've been thinking about the power of one nuke. I realize that the initial inclination is to use up all the nukes in an effort to utterly obliterate the opponent. The problem is that if the opponent has even one nuke left at the end of the game and has any semblance of infrastructure, then the war is essentially lost. The scoring system reflects the notion that keeping nukes is important, but when I first played, I thought it was the idea that we see in The Art of War, that you do as little damage as possible while still utterly incapacitating the opposition. But now that I've played more, the more I think that it's a matter of maintaining power, because a single nuke is enough to hold non-nuclear opponents in abeyance for quite some time.

    I like the concept of the game, but it wasn't executed properly, and I didn't really enjoy it as a whole. I wouldn't recommend it to other players, though I would definitely suggest that people watch War Games, the movie on which the game was based.

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    Mar 19th, 2015 at 19:56:46     -    Defcon (PC)

    Well, I still don't love the game, but I can at last say that I beat a computer. I don't know if I just had a better strategy going into it this time around or if I was benefited by the distance between our countries or what, but I felt like this time around was super easy. I was Africa (which apparently now has nukes?), and the enemy was (you guessed it) Russia, as usual. I guess I realized this time around that bombing runs are one of your best bets, because you can use the bombers over and over. I wiped out all the air defenses with my nukes, and then my airplanes had free rein of the place. One thing I noticed in terms of the computer's gameplay is that it will often group 6 subs together and then let loose with nukes galore after they get past my defending fleets. I think I'll maybe try that next time.

    I guess one thing stood out to me more than anything this time, and that was that the scoring system takes into account how many nukes you have left at the end of the game. I don't know how I got to the end with 25 nukes (realistically, carelessness), but it rewarded me for NOT nuking the crap out of Russia, and I thought that was kind of interesting. It seems like the game kind of encourages the whole death and destruction mentality, but here it was rewarding me for killing a lesser number of people. I really like that, and it made me think that maybe there are tons of things like that that I'm just not seeing because I'm still new to the game. I mean there's the wailing and crying in the background, and that's okay I guess, but I still don't feel like this game made me see anything in any new ways. Anyway, I guess I'll keep my eyes open next time to see what else I might have missed.

    That being said, I feel like this game is supposed to have some kind of big, meaningful message, but I just don't get it. Maybe if something like this had been out in the 1960's, it would have resonated with people more, but I think it came too late to really impact people in a meaningful way. On the contrary, the fact that it is decontextualized in being released nigh on 50 years after the climax of the Cold War makes the game seem almost inappropriate, as if it were released simply because the idea sounded fun--you know, blowing people up and stuff... I guess it probably makes more sense to others, though. I'm somewhat of a pacifist, so even if the game is successful in conveying a no-war/nuclear disarmament message, it comes across as kind of "well duh" to me. Anyway, I'm willing to give it another shot, I guess.

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    Mar 17th, 2015 at 18:57:13     -    Defcon (PC)

    Hmmm... where to begin. Well, first off, I am really bad at this game. I'm usually pretty good at strategy games, especially slower ones where you can deliberate about different tactics or whatever, but for some reason, I can't wrap my head around this one. It's funny, too, because I love War Games, the movie on which this game was based, but I just can't like this game... or at least not yet.

    I played through the tutorial, and the first thing that dawned on me is that the game is exceptionally slow. That's all fine and dandy from a strategy point of view, but where I'm already burdened with the knowledge that I'm acting out what might under other circumstances be considered genocide, I don't need to see the bombs moving toward the cities for 40 seconds to know that nuclear war is a terrible thing. Also, if the game's purpose is to make people think about nuclear holocaust, it has succeeded only in trivializing it by turning casualties into a scoring system and individuals into faceless statistics. The controls are not very intuitive, the UI is bad (player names and info boxes that obscure your screen and make it so you can't click on certain cities or assets), and on top of that, the game won't function in full screen mode. It seems like this is just trying to ride the popularity of wargames, but it takes all the human-ness out of the experience and conceals the real ethical issues behind numbers and minimalist graphics.

    So, in short, I'm not loving this game. Part of that could be my frustration with the controls, and part of it almost certainly comes from the fact that I haven't won a game yet. Even AIs clobber me. Anyway, I'll give it another go and see where that takes me.

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    Feb 23rd, 2015 at 13:40:06     -    The Walking Dead: Season Two (PC)

    As much as I hate violent video games and zombie stories, I'm going to finish The Walking Dead later tonight. It's funny how it's worked out so far, because I really didn't want to like the game. When I first started playing, the art was kitschy and annoying for the most part, and I didn't like the characters or the general direction of the story. As it's progressed, though, I've been able to see some of the logic behind different design decisions, and I've actually enjoyed the story a lot. I find that there are some characters about whom I basically don't care, but there are others who, when they die or leave, it actually means something to me personally.

    It's a hard balance, who to save, because in the end, you realize that you can't really save anyone. You try to save Sarah over and over, and you realize in the end that despite your best efforts, if she doesn't want to live--if she's not burning with life--then she'll be consumed by circumstance. That doesn't mean we don't, though, I guess. I look at Jane and her whole backstory and think how hard it must have been first to see her sister, Jamie, die and then Sarah, and you wish that she would stay, because it means that she sees Clementine as different from the other two. But the fact that she leaves shows that that's just not the case, and even though she puts on a hard exterior, she only leaves because she can't stand to put up with the pain of losing Jamie again and again. You see that even though Jane's independent and "strong," it's only heartache that has done that to her.

    When I got to the part with the Russians, I had to laugh a little bit that game makers were (surprise, surprise) again using Slavs as the enemy. It also didn't help that they were presented as junkies in the earlier encounter with Jane and Clem. It just makes me think that we'll never get over our old biases--we'll never get over our differences or begin to see people as they really are. I guess I had some advantage playing through this part, because I understood all the Russian. Arvo, for me, was the only real character there, and the rest of the Russians were just old stereotypes, blocks that designers can snap into place when they need an enemy faction. Arvo, though, was voiced by an actual Russian (or Ukrainian?), and you he seemed more to be caught in the middle of everything. There was the slight complication of him basically telling the thugs that Clem and Jane had mugged him (which wasn't true), but I just remember him shouting in Russian, "No, they have a baby! Just put your weapons down. We don't need to do this." Knowing Russian provided an added layer of humanization to a character who was already pretty interesting, based on his circumstances. I think part of designing a good game is building in those little things, and maybe they won't impact everyone who plays, but they'll make those little moments so much more rich for those who do.

    Anyway, it's kind of sad, but I'm glad Sarah's gone, and as much as I liked Rebecca, I didn't really react much when we had to put her down. I'm still not sure how she got bit, unless her baby was a zombie or something. Doesn't make a ton of sense, but then again, maybe things will explain themselves in the last episode. All in all, really enjoying the game, and I'm excited for what I guess will be a thrilling conclusion.

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