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    gbayles's This war of mine (PC)

    [January 24, 2015 11:51:13 PM]
    Well, I finished my first entire playthrough this evening, and I really did love this game. I stuck to my guns til the end and didn't steal from regular, defenseless people, and I felt really good coming out of it all knowing that I hadn't lost my humanity somewhere in the fog of war.

    I guess one of the hardest things for me is that you never know when it will all end. I sent Bruno out on the final night, not knowing that we could have just stayed in and survived on what we had, but he was killed that final night, after all he had been through. He was the only character who had been there since the beginning, and he was honestly my favorite as well, and it just seemed like such a waste of life that he was taken out really for no reason at all. We could have holed up inside the shelter, which was barricaded and alarmed, and everything would have been fine. We had food and supplies for a couple days, and he didn't even need to go out. In the end, though, it doesn't cheapen the sacrifice that he made on behalf of the other team members. It doesn't make his death (and perhaps more importantly, his life) any less valiant or heroic than the others. It's just sad that he was so close to making it.

    I like to think that my ideals--both in life and in the game, apparently--are more Kantian than utilitarian. I really did try to treat others as ends in themselves, and I found that while helping other people usually disadvantaged me, it was a lot easier to live with myself and for the characters to live with the decisions that they had to make. The hardest time for me was when Marko fell apart from the guilt of killing the hobo in the bombed out school. I knew that I never wanted anything like that to happen again--not for me, and not for the characters--and I think it helped me to really solidify my position on violence and self defense and all that.

    Anyway, I'm rambling now, so I'll just say that I loved the game, and I plan on playing through it at least one more time, this time (hopefully) with a bit more strategy and a bit less regret. Definitely my favorite game in a while...
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    [January 24, 2015 02:32:54 PM]
    This game gets better every time. Loving all the ethical questions it raises, and it's been interesting to kind of get to know myself through the decisions that I've made in-game.

    It's funny because I think the initial impulse when playing a game like this is to panic and just do whatever you have to in order to survive another day, but as you get past 20 or 30 days, you realize that survival might actually be a thing, and you start to think more long-term with your goals. There was a time where, in order to keep my people alive, I traded my ax for food, but now I look at that and think, "You just didn't build enough traps or vegetable gardens or whatever. It's been a really interesting challenge to plan things out so that I can survive without bartering away vital tools and resources. At the same time, though, there was something very satisfying about bartering away my knife, which I had taken with me on all of my scavenging runs. I realized, "After that first encounter where I pretty much had to kill, and after Marko's depression and everything, I have no desire to kill." Selling the knife was a nice way of concretizing that decision.

    I guess one moral issue that I've come up against is whether or not it's okay to steal from bad people. I would feel bad stealing from a family or something, but when it's armed thugs or manipulative military personnel, I have absolutely no qualms about stealing (aside from, of course, the possibility of being caught). The other issue that has arisen of late is the dilemma of whether or not I should use guns as bartering items, as that essentially facilitates further violence. I have thought about that questions a lot, especially since the switch from winter to organized crime came at about the same time as I traded away 4 or 5 firearms to the traveling trader. I realized that in some sense, they weren't doing me any good and supplies could do me a lot of good, but it was hard knowing that that trader could potentially walk down the street and sell those same guns to a bunch of thugs who, up until then, had only been deterred from breaking into our shelter because we had firearms and they didn't.

    That being said, I feel like things are going pretty well. I'm about 37 days in, and my people are happy and healthy for the most part. Still trying to get my vegetable and meat schedule more on track, but it's coming along little by little, and I should have some good items to barter with now that I can make cigarettes and herbal meds. I have my own qualms about the whole smoking thing (Bruno, by the way, is definitely an addict), but I guess it doesn't make a huge different whether I barter away the tobacco products (for less) or the actual cigarettes (for more). Or something like that.

    There was a line on the radio that caught my attention. It said, "Every building has a story to tell," and I think that's where it really hit me that even though there's not much of a linear narrative in the game as a whole, I have been so impressed by the narrative cues at pretty much every turn. I thought it was kind of strange that the different locations didn't change over time--that is, until I went back to Sniper Junction and the guy who had been there before was now dead and the baby was gone. Little things like that have made these places seem so alive, and I'm learning a lot of the potential for storytelling within even non-linear spaces. Passage of time seems to be a major mechanic in making things like that work. Anyway, I'm going to keep playing. I've wondered whether there is really an end to this, but I'm not complaining at all. To be honest, I find it hard to stop playing this game.
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    [January 23, 2015 01:58:34 AM]
    Lists. I think all I do is assemble lists of things that I need more of to keep my characters alive. Physical lists, scrawled on whatever paper I can find, often in what look more a cuneiform than English. Day 11. "4 gears [I don't even bother to write the actual names], 6+ wood, parts++." Day 12. "Food." The hard days are made evident by the brevity of their lists. It wasn't until day 12 that I noticed the "Some thoughts" section on the menu screen. I don't know if had been there all along, but suddenly, these characters were real, writing notes about the struggles that they (we) were facing, and it all seemed so real.

    I made my first kill today. I didn't mean to, really. It's just that Pavle finally was in perfect condition--no wounds, no cough, full rested and fed--and I wanted to give him a chance to go out (in part, to be honest, so that Marko could have a day of much needed rest). I also knew at that point that I was going to have to steal--like confront people and steal right in front of them--and since Pavle was a fast runner, I figured he could grab the goods and hightail it out of there without any problem. Cue theft, Pavle went into combat mode (unarmed, mind you), and the two guys whose stuff I had taken did the same. For the first 5 seconds, I fumbled around trying to figure out how to run away, and they Pavle once, twice. A fist appeared over one, and I thoughtm "Maybe I can knock him back and then run," so I swung. The guy came at me again and swung, but after all that time of putting up with Pavle--of bandaging his almost ever-present wounds, of feeding him despite the fact that he could only lay in bed all day, of expending meds exclusively on him and in great quantities--I wasn't going to let him die to a bum in a bombed out school over a couple of tins of canned food. So I swung again, and the guy fell, and Pavle was suddenly a killer, and then Pavle was suddenly gone. The other guy had struck him from behind, and Pavle died. And it was only then that I noticed that Steam had given me an achievement: "First Kill," as if it were something to be glad about.

    I can't get over the other characters' responses when they got back. Some of it, admittedly, was pretty corny, and it kind of broke the immersion for them to shout things like, "I can't believe Pavle's dead." It all felt too sanitized, as if Pavle were a cat from down the lane or a plant growing in the corner. All of my remaining characters were sad, and Marko was still in pretty rough shape, but he had the largest bag, and he had proven successful so many times before, so I sent him out to retrieve the things Pavle would have left. I guess I didn't think about the consequences that would have on Marko--I just knew that we were going to die without those supplies, so I packed up a few things and headed back to the school.

    This time, though, preparing took on a different meaning. As I looked at my gear and remembered Pavle's untimely end, I hesitated on the knife for a moment before moving it into my pack. I knew then that the fact that I was taking the knife mean that I was willing to kill with that knife--I knew I was putting Marko's life above that of the bum in the school, but I also knew that everyone was depending on Marko. He had held the group together for so long, and he would carry them through this rough patch as well. I found Pavle, and I killed the hobo. And then the loot option popped up on the hobo. I was stunned, wondering if that could really be what I thought it was, and sure enough, when I looted the body, I picked up an item or two. And then, the sick, discouraged part of me that was lost somewhere in the game thought to itself, "Gee, if one hobo has stuff to loot, maybe the others have stuff on them, too." War changes the way you think about people. It makes you and them less human, and you kind of have to become okay with that.

    When Marko got back, he wouldn't move from the entry way. He sat down and stared and wouldn't move. The trader came by, and Marko sat, depressed and broken. Marin played music on the radio, and Bruno made food--good food--but Marko just sat and stared. I don't know that it really even dawned on me what had happened: I knew Pavle had died, and they all "knew" Pavle had died, so I didn't really think about the fact that Marko, should he return to the school, would see his friend's body for the first time. I didn't realize it would break him. But when Bruno said, "Marko will never forget this..." I knew I had made a big mistake, and I felt terrible. Marko had held the team together that whole time--he was the strong one, the one who kept everyone else alive--and then he was gone, the shell left over after the angel moth flies away.

    I think it's clear by now that this game invites deep connection with its characters and handles mood and personality in unique and innovative ways. I honestly didn't expect half of the psychological twists or responses that I've witnessed playing this game, and I'm loving the new experience. I'm also realizing that when survival is on the line, a lot of the time, it's easier to focus on physical health, but emotional and psychological health can sometimes be even more important and in much more profound disarray. Someone once said that war is a thing that gives us meaning, but the more I encounter war--whether through video games, film, or literature--I find that it often robs us of even the most basic meanings. It deprives us of whatever humanity we have salvaged from childhood and gives us instead pain, loss, sadness, and an unceasing hunger of both body and soul.

    I don't know what to say about this game more than that it is amazing. I have loved it so far, and I grow more attached to it with each day that I play: more endeared to its rich narrative, its emergent play style, its unique psychological approach, its beautiful artwork and music, and perhaps more than anything, I have fallen in love with the beautiful truths scattered in the ashes and rubble of this bitter war of mine.
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    [January 22, 2015 05:40:10 PM]
    Well, I have to say, I am super impressed with This War of Mine so far. I wasn't sure what to expect of it when I first started playing--it seemed like I would get bored fast--but I found myself compelled to do "just one more day," and two hours later, I was still sitting in front of my laptop. I got sucked into the world, and I didn't want to leave it. The music and environment were captivating. The little details like the characters limping or coughing really added to the immersion and was a great method for passive feedback. I also liked the diversity of the dialogue, because for the most part, it added vitality and "realness" to the characters and helped me to experience their desperation at least to a minimal degree.

    One thing that I really liked about the game is that they don't overexplain mechanics. The first time I went scavenging, I didn't really even think about it, and I was really cautious because I could see that there was someone or something upstairs in the house. I ended up not taking any supplies with me (crowbar, shovel, etc.), only looted a couple of things, and left pretty much emptyhanded. The game doesn't explain that you inventory is limited while scavenging or that sawblades can only be used once, but you learn those things by hard experience, just as you would in the real world. The second or third time I went scavenging, I realized that I couldn't just slink around and hope to find the things that I needed, so I started planning ahead of time and was eventually faced with the reality that I would have to encounter whomever or whatever was upstairs in the first house. I was anxious to be sure, but it ended up being just a mouse. I was so relieved, and it served as a nice chance to kind of laugh at myself and relax from the tension of the game.

    There were lots of moments where you just had to trust that things would work out, though. When the neighbor came and asked for help boarding up windows, I wasn't really sure what to do, because I didn't want to risk the safety of my people on behalf of people whom I didn't even know. That was, of course, after I built up the courage to even open the door. The same was the case when the bargaining guy came. I hesitated for a moment before opening the door, wondering if this stranger would charge in and kill one of my characters. The game ends up being a lot about trust, both in other people and in humanity. I think you have to kind of trust humanity, because that's all that you have to rely upon. I didn't want to violate that trust either, so I found myself scavenging only in places that were already abandoned or looted. Whatever nobility was left inside of me said that risking getting hit by a sniper was well worth the chance to avoid inflicting violence against innocent people, and I think in some sense, that moral stand has helped me to feel good about the game as a whole, even though I'm surrounded by terrible things happening. Some part of me wants to believe that I will be able to last forever without ever wronging another human being, but I have the niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I'll soon have to make some changes.

    Survival makes you think about people a lot differently. It changes how you view humanity. I remember when Marin asked to join my group, I was fine with it, as it would mean that we had another person to keep watch. When it came time for someone to leave the house for a couple of days to defend strangers, though, he was the obvious choice. I didn't feel bad about sending him, because in some sense, he wasn't "one of us." We got by with three, and we'll get by with three if Marin never comes back. Even within the group, though, I found myself thinking, "Gee, Pavle sure eats a lot. And he's wounded, so he can't do much. And he's always sick, even though no one else gets sick or wounded. Maybe it would be easier without him." Even though he was a member of my initial core group, I found that as supplies became more meager, I saw him less as a person and friend and more as a burden--a drain on our already scanty supplies. I resisted the urge to send him on reckless missions, but there was still that devil on my shoulder the whole while, telling me that life would be easier without hungry, sick, injured Pavle.

    All in all, loving the game so far. Really solid narrative, theme, and aesthetic, and I love the immersiveness of the player experience. Can't wait to play some more tomorrow!
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    gbayles's This war of mine (PC)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Wednesday 21 January, 2015

    GameLog closed on: Monday 6 April, 2015

    gbayles's opinion and rating for this game

    Deeply moving and rich in its psychological and ethical implications. The game forces you to ask yourself who you really are on the inside and to what measures you will go to survive. Phenomenal game as a whole. Definitely recommended.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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