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    Apr 6th, 2016 at 10:00:54     -    Undertale (PC)

    Game log 3: Wow, this game is strange and intriguing. Getting more into the combat, I'm describing it as "empathy puzzles." What I mean by that is every combat situation seems to be figuring out how to relate to the character you're fighting; you have to learn what they care about and then play to that to get them into the mercy state where you can spare them. Even when the solution is actually to exploit that thing they care about (ignore the Icecap's hat, for instance), it's still an empathy puzzle because you have to learn what the creature cares about in order to progress in the game.

    Undertale makes an interesting and compelling case for non-combat JRPG-style games. The point seems to be that if all we're doing is selecting stuff from a menu to get a result, why do the choices have to be different attacks? You can achieve just as interesting results--if not more so--by using those menus to select different kinds of interactions other than attacks. The way Undertale's "combat" is set up, every first encounter with a new enemy type is suspenseful and interesting because the options and solutions are always different, there's no spamming your strong attack or super spell in this game (if you play passive--I can't speak to how it plays if you actually fight).

    I'm sad I'm so busy and can't play more of this game right now. It's so weird, but so new and different.

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    Apr 6th, 2016 at 10:00:32     -    Undertale (PC)

    Game log 2: This game seems almost determined to have you not play it. Or, at least, not play it like any other game. So far--and I've made past Toriel's basement--mercy has always been the answer, even when the game wasn't telling you it was an option. Flowey's little speech about what will happen if you find someone bound to fight you was well taken--how committed am I to this mercy path? Will I quit the game for it? The obvious answer should be no, right? I want to experience the content created. But, presumably, the question is, is that content worth it if it's against my ethics? Games love being an ethical void--a playground where ethics don't apply--but Undertale rather obviously asks you how much you really believe that, and, at least so far, provides a truly, real-world ethical path that calls into question almost every other game. What if games aren't an ethical void? What if they just haven't recognized themselves as truly ethically important--what would happen if one did? It seems that this is Undertale. And it kind of kills me that I've only barely started this game.

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    Apr 6th, 2016 at 10:00:15     -    Undertale (PC)

    Game Log 1: In my first outing with Undertale I almost literally did nothing. Not that I was cheating the assignment, I felt like I was truly playing that game in one of the ways it was meant to be played. Toriel gives me a cellphone and asks me to wait. So that's what I did. About 40 minutes later I have seen several messages onscreen of "puppy-dials" from Toriel's phone with Toriel saying a bunch of stuff to try and convince the puppy to come back. However, she also said something about what she was fetching was flour, which makes it sound like she's going to cook me, to be honest.

    However, in my mostly just waiting around, I had to ask myself if this was abusive game design. Obviously, the intent is for the player to ignore instructions and just move on from the room. But there's also deliberately placed content for those who stay in the room. But that content in unavoidably spaced out over 5-ish minute intervals. To get the content, you literally have to stay in an empty room. It seemed like you could walk around and still get the calls, but I'm pretty sure that if you leave the room you don't get the rest of the calls. Also, the content I received for waiting told me very little, but it did intrigue me in the world further. I was not entertained while waiting around, and to be honest, I did it because this seems like the artsy kind of game that would bother with putting in something for waiting around (I was right, PS). But as I result, I did next to nothing in "playing" this game for the better part of an hour. What's the point? "Realism"? This game throws that out the window in two seconds. "Experience"? Maybe. There's something strangely magical about a videogame giving you a reason to do nothing. Poetic, maybe. Or just pretentious. I feel like the game stole my time, yet I freely gave it. I might be angry at you, Toby Fox. I guess we'll see.

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    Feb 29th, 2016 at 09:38:18     -    Prison Architect (PC)

    Wow, this game just keeps getting deeper and deeper. I got into scheduling programs today--things like AA meetings and drug treatment--both of which the CEO advocated, making me think the CEO isn't actually evil, even though he looks like a typical evil CEO. Still seems like there's no limit to my budget, so I'm still giving the prisoners absolutely everything I can. I finally got my new cell block finished, but I keep getting new prisoners faster than I can complete cells, so I constantly have people who can't be assigned cells. Frustrating.

    I like this game. I like the subtlety of its ethical questions. The effects of your style of prison are relatively slow to take effect, and the game doesn't scream at you as either a "good" prison or "bad" prison. Plus, I forgot how much I get into Sim-type games when I bother to take the time to play them. I quickly grew very concerned about the minutiae of getting pipes to toilets and every room fully wired and having enough janitors and so on. I really didn't like this game after my first session, but I'm really glad I played it now.

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