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    Apr 6th, 2016 at 19:48:23     -    Undertale (PC)

    I've completed my third playthrough of Undertale, making it as far as the Tem Shop.
    From where I was with the last entry to here, nothing of huge interest happened. I went on a date with a skeleton, got chased down by the head of the Royal Guard, was attacked by a possessed training dummy, and met some very strange creatures.
    The date itself was...strange. The minigame was a lot like an encounter, but I felt I had little control over what was going on. Played as a series of yes/no questions with clear right and wrong answers it felt to me as if it didn't fit with the theme of the game.
    The date ends with Papyrus requesting a platonic relationship with the player - since clearly the player is in love with him for hanging out.
    The entire idea of a date was pushed throughout the Papyrus fight - Acting was either insulting or flirting with Papyrus only.
    I found this a little strange - why would flirting be the only option instead of something more platonic?
    My guess is the design is deliberate to mess with the player. Flirting has strong romantic overtones that most of us would not use in the context of interacting with someone we are not romantically attracted to.
    Yet the interaction does apply when making friends - small petty annoyances that we find endearing that eventually lead to feelings for a person.

    The interaction sequence through the date did make me a little uneasy, since I began with flirting then went on a date I felt a little off.
    I was constantly on guard for what was going to happen, and was put moreso when we entered Papyrus' bedroom to "do whatever it is people do on a date."
    My unease culminated when Papyrus asked me to find his 'secret' in the new outfit.
    This entire scenario made me uneasy because of cultural references for what a date is.
    A date is set up to be a romantic experience, not something one would use for two friends hanging out. Curious how this changes,
    children have play-dates with friends, then sometime around our teenage years it transitions from being innocent, to meaning something deeper.
    The game took advantage of that culture shift brilliantly. Very rarely has a game made me feel this uncomfortable.

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    Apr 5th, 2016 at 16:48:29     -    Undertale (PC)

    I've completed my second playsession of Undertale and have made it to the Papyrus fight.
    Papyrus himself is an interesting character - projecting his own doubts onto the player, fighting to capture the player
    (despite liking the player) just to further his own reputation.

    Papyrus portrays in a very charming way our basic need for acceptance. Throughout the Snowdin area Papyrus has set up puzzles for the player to navigate.
    As the player solves puzzles, Papyrus grows more impressed while presenting cheesy villain dialogue about how the player will not solve the next puzzle.
    At the half way point, Papyrus leaves a plate of food for the player and a note stating the food will be too distracting for the player to be able to proceed.
    This simple gesture tells a different story: Papyrus is trying to express affection for the player.
    Papyrus' entire demeanor changes from cheesy villain to awkward and shy. He's boastful to a new face to try and impress them into liking him.
    But that facade falls with dialogue from his brother: Papyrus is a nice person but has been feeling down, solve the puzzles to humor him,
    and that his clothing is a costume he has been wearing since a party they attended.
    He's now shown as a sympathetic character who is only searching for a friend.
    Given that I am playing a pacifist, I will be befriending Papyrus and see what happens when he gets what he so deeply desires.

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    Apr 5th, 2016 at 00:38:08     -    Undertale (PC)

    I've completed my first play session of Undertale and am enjoying the game so far.
    The combat system is new, with the player getting to decide whether to fight or engage in dialogue.
    I've decided to do a pacifist playthrough - only engaging in conversation and sparing the enemies rather than engaging in combat.

    When given the option, I usually take the "good" path first: in Fable I play white alignment, in Mass Effect I choose Paragon, and for this I chose pacifist.
    The pacifist path is far more difficult, I don't appear to be gaining any experience from engaging in combat, which means my stats won't scale as rapidly as the enemies.
    This may change later, or perhaps I am sparing the enemies too early in the encounters. This requires more testing later.

    For this playthrough I exited the ruins and began Snowdin. Through the Ruins area, Toriel is your guide.
    She lives alone in the ruins since the last human who fell left to try to get back to the surface. Starting she is lonely, then she finds a child who fell.
    Her loneliness compounded with her caring nature create what is essentially a helicopter parent personality in this character.
    Toriel begins by leading you through some simple puzzles, in a very direct way - chalk arrows on the wall, looking over your shoulder as you interact with the training dummy,
    asking you to solve a puzzle alone only to lead you through by the hand, and finally hiding behind a pillar in an area that has no puzzle to solve, just a long path.
    At the end of this, Toriel gives the player a cell phone, and asks them to wait for her to come pick them up.

    Throughout the Ruins, Toriel calls to check in with the player, asking what they like to eat, any allergies, and other fairly mundane questions.
    However, the player has the ability to call Toriel and ask for puzzle help, and she responds by asking if the player is still in the room where she left them.
    I found this more annoying than anything: I was abandoned and asked to have faith, constantly checked in on, and finally when I actually need some help, ignored.

    Her behavior culminates at the end of the Ruins area, where she intends to destroy the exit to the ruins so the player must remain behind with her, as the world beyond her house is too dangerous
    At the exit, the player must fight Toriel as she wants to show the player the world beyond is much too dangerous, and she is doing the player a favor by beating the crap out of them,
    clearly it is much safer with someone willing to abuse you in the name of teaching you a lesson...

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    Mar 3rd, 2016 at 01:13:08     -    Prison Architect (PC)

    For my last playsession, I managed to finish the campaign. The last two missions were quite difficult for me. Particularly the last one.
    In these types of tycoon games I tend to struggle keeping a net positive cash flow as I attempt to maintain and expand my areas. In this one, I found it particularly troubling as there is a massive moral consequence.
    This entire game is based off of the For-Profit prison industry. The worse the prisoners are treated or the longer their sentences, the more cash the prison generates. I find this extremely unpleasant.

    From the start I had a feeling the game was pointing out problems with For-Profit prisons, and that was confirmed in the G.A.B.O.S mission. I felt that the idea would be changing to something more idealistic - reform over retention with less of an emphasis on cost.
    I was incorrect. The last mission requires a net positive cash flow, meaning there are sacrifices that must be made in other areas - livable conditions, adequate medical care, safety, etc, in order to meet the requirement.

    I find this kind of prison system heavily flawed. When a prison is converted into a for profit system, it becomes an industry similar to what we find morally wrong about exploited workers in other countries. The argument could be made that the inmates don't deserve better treatment as they did something wrong to be placed in prison to begin with, yet this is a flawed argument as the prisoners are now being treated as a means to an end.
    To me prisons should not be an industry. These institutions serve a purpose - to keep those who are not fit for society out of the populace while attempting to reform them.
    I am not saying that prisoners should live off society as leeches, but they should not be exploited for monetary gain either. To me, a prison would work best as a
    system that generates just enough revenue to be self sustaining.

    Overall, I enjoyed Prison Architect. The game gave an interesting view on three (that I've noticed) moral flaws with some prison ideas we currently use.
    The death penalty, racist sentencing, and For Profit system were all well pointed out by this game.

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