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    The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (PC)    by   dkirschner       (Oct 27th, 2020 at 19:30:21)

    Woo! Played some games! Last time I taught Death, Grief, and Dying I came up with a two-day activity for students to play That Dragon, Cancer and do some thinking about the role of games and play in representing/coping with loss. I couldn't do the exact same game-based learning lesson virtually, so I modified the activity by using a variety of games (actually sourced from having students dig for them last time!) to give students options and broadening the questions. The variety overcame financial and technological obstacles, which I'm really happy about! I had two free options and games that could be played across PC, console, phones, and iPads: That Dragon, Cancer; Gris; Apart of Me; and The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit.

    This game was a nice surprise, a short slice of compelling story tackling tough themes of death, alcoholism, and child abuse, as well as more uplifting ones like imagination and fantasy. This is an "in between" sort of episode of the Life is Strange series. I don't know how (if) it relates to the first game, and apparently it is a prequel of sorts to the second. You play as a young boy named Chris who lives with his alcoholic dad. Chris's mom/dad's wife has somewhat recently died and dad isn't taking it too well.

    As Chris, you spend a morning playing in your room, eating breakfast with your dad, exploring outside your house, mourning your mother, and hoping that your dad will take you Christmas tree shopping like he promised. He gets busy drinking early and watching basketball though, so it's unlikely they ever go tree shopping. No matter. There is plenty to do around the house for an hour-and-a-half. Most of these things have the potential to piss off your drunk, angry dad.

    Which is what I found so compelling about the game. Normally in videogames, I poke and prod characters, try a bunch of dialogue options, have fun pissing off NPCs if possible. In this game, I did not want to piss off the dad. I didn't want to call and order a pizza, I didn't want to pretend to zap his whiskey bottle, I didn't want to compare his cooking to my mom's cooking, I didn't want to wake him up after he passed out, I didn't want to play with a dinosaur toy on the floor in the den where he was watching TV. The game succeeds in making you think your actions will bring literal harm to Chris. It effectively establishes an abusive relationship in a realistic setting.

    After I finished the game though, I did go back and see what Chris's father would do in response to some of these behaviors. Surprisingly, he doesn't do anything except be irritated with you. There is one funny interaction I found. When he is watching the basketball game (and here, I thought back to my own childhood), if you stand in front of the TV, he will make comments like "Chris, I can't see through you, you know." My dad used to say, "You're a door, not a window." But he never really yells and doesn't get physical, even though it's clear that he has before.

    This was absolutely worth the 90-120 minutes it took to poke around and, although none of my students actually chose to play it, I'll keep it on the list for this assignment in the future.

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    Bee Simulator (PS4)    by   jp       (Oct 24th, 2020 at 17:46:02)


    I'm not sure I have all that much more to say - the game isn't that deep but I did have a bit of extra fun picking up some trophies and finding some easter eggs - a literal one in this case (there's an easter egg inside the hen house in the zoo, if you sting it, it turns red and unlocks a trophy). Perhaps the neatest was finding a ring in the seal pen, stinging it, and an inscription appears! (like in the Lord of the Rings movie). It has a code that you then need to enter in a laptop. WHAT?!

    Anyways, light, fun and totally charming game.

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    Bee Simulator (PS4)    by   jp       (Oct 20th, 2020 at 22:07:28)

    I've been enjoying this. It's simple, easy, educational and completely unexpected. I think it's the freshness/novelty I enjoy as well as my sheer surprise that a game like this even exists.

    It's also surprisingly easy to describe in "game design terms". I can do this poorly...for example, by saying that it's like an open-world game (al a GTA, Assassin's Creed) with a central story-driven narrative and in-world side missions and quests. You fly around to certain locations (often see in the screen as a pillar of light in different colors according to the type of quest) and activate them. These function like mini-games: there's a combat game, a racing game, a pattern-matching (mimic the bee dance!) game, and a collect-stuff game. There are also (very few, it seems) some story-driven side missions like helping an orphaned baby squirrel, feed squirrel kids, and a few more I don't recall right now.

    I think what I like about it is that is has this structure, but it's applied to a game that is not 80 hours long. It's probably about 8 hours - I'm guessing even less if you only stick to the main storyline. I think I'm 90% done with the story in 4 hours of gameplay?

    It's also surprisingly earnest and serious - the characters are modelled in a realistic fashion (not cartoony) and it the issues are...well, real? I mean, maybe its closer to the antz movie than bug's life...but it's not a cartoon in the over-the-top sense. Like, I really am collecting pollen (by flying over flowers, which is not realistic) and learning about different flowers and...who the bees don't get along with (wasps, hornets), and how important it is to have enough pollen for the winter...and, stuff like that.

    So far, pleasant surprise!

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    Photographs (PC)    by   jp       (Oct 17th, 2020 at 19:08:55)

    Whoops. I should have started this gamelog a while back. However, I have played recently - so I guess that works.

    I really like the photography mechanic here - it's implemented in a way that feels authentic with nice detail on the focusing and the audio. The photography, however is not really the central activity - since most of the game is really about puzzle solving. So far I've played through 3 characters' stories (I had no idea how many there would be - to be fair I still don't know but interstitial messages suggest that there'll be 5 of them). The first was a sad touching story about a grandfather saving his granddaughter (at least that's what I recall at this moment). The puzzles here were sokoban-style - you have to get characters to an endpoint by making them go in a direction. The 2nd story was about a teenage girl on a school diving team and how she dopes to win, but then loses it all. This episode seemed a bit long for me - and the puzzles were of the "shoot cannon and make the projectile land in a spot, sometimes hitting a thing along the way". You could change the direction of the cannon and sometimes also moves items in the environment. I didn't really enjoy these puzzles - they seemed to trail-and-error-ry to me.

    The 3rd story, which I finished yesterday - was MUCH more interesting, here I felt that the puzzles were much more connected to the theme of the story. It's about an indigenous people who welcome settlers, but then the settlers take over, the indigenous people are starting and stuff (tragic stuff) happens. The puzzles here were tangrams - but once completed the area you placed them in would grow food and different characters would eat. In a few of them the "lines" (plow lines?) would not line up with the majority - and those tangram pieces had an indigenous character on them. When the food would grow - they wouldn't see any food grow on their piece and would go hungry that turn! Whoah! I thought that was really cool - and the same idea was also used later when doing a puzzle in a riverbed area (that's dry - they went hungry again).

    I recall being interested in this game due to the picture taking mechanic (there aren't that many games with it - though the WWI game (11-11?) is a recent example I remember), but I'm surprised there's more to the game than that. I'm curious what the last two stories will be about. So far there doesn't seem to be any common thread tying them all together...

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    Before I Forget (PC)    by   jp       (Oct 15th, 2020 at 21:17:30)

    This one's unusual. I cited this game in a paper based on description from an interview (or something published, I don't recall off the top of my head). But, I never actually played the game.

    So, now I have!

    It's nice and short and the subject matter definitely puts it in the "this is not supposed to be fun" category.

    I was confused for a bit because I wasn't sure what to do - you're given an impossible objective (find someone) and then the game doesn't let you complete that (which is fine) but it kind of stalls out if you don't start exploring...basically finding objects and interacting with them. At that point color returns to the area where that object was - and you start to learn about the character you're controlling.

    She's got alzheimer's, is easily confused, and doesn't really know what's going on.

    You piece this together by observing the environment - noticing the dates, and so on.

    I enjoyed the experience and there are some nice "interludes" - flashbacks of a sort, and the whole experience is tinged with a lot of sadness as you realize that the protagonist is unaware of her situation - and her "rememembering" is there mostly for the player's benefit, or perhaps they represent "flashes" of memory? They're mostly rooted in the past - years ago...and then there is the obvious twist. The person you're looking is no longer around. You learn what happened to them and when of course.

    It's an unusual game experience, to be sure. My overall emotion was sadness...not just because of the protagonists situation, but also because of the sense that her life didn't "end well" - her marriage was struggling towards the end and...well, she doesn't really have much left except mementos from the past... Her life seems, meaningless in some sense? (despite being an accomplished and important scientist - you get the feeling that her professional career also feel of a cliff in the end)

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    Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)    by   bloodyxromance

    No comment, yet.
    most recent entry:   Wednesday 31 January, 2007
    Colossus is a difficult game, and yet it is so realistic. The moments of the player are amazingly lively. The way the horse moves, too, is very life like. The controls are pretty realistic in that certain movements cause certain things to happen. The controls arent that simple, therefore making it life like. The details in the landscapes are beautiful. It is a long game, aslo. I am not going to finish this game, because it takes up so much time just walking or riding your horse to places. The land is a very large place. It takes awhile trying to find a way to get to the enemy Then there's trying to figure out how to kill the enemy. The first boss was probably the simplest because all you had to do was climb the colossus and hit it's "soft" spots. The last colossus is very very large, and it's probably easiest if you take a certain way up its body.

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