A Rambling Post About PAX East 2013

Each step further away from the Boston Convention and Expo Center feels like another mile closer to the real world. I can feel that same old sensation growing in my chest as the crowd of geeks around begins to thin and dissipate into the greater Boston area; it is a sense that echoes something close to bereavement. Later, sitting at Boston South Station is an eerie scene as geeks, subdued and quiet, huddle at tables or on the floor each group isolated and alone as if with the closing of another PAX East they lack the willingness to look around a meet the gazes of their compatriots; perhaps  they are afraid to see the loss mirrored there.

As usually it takes me a solid 24 hours before I can turn around and confront the memories of the past weekend. Three days of nerd heaven full of laughs, games, music, and all around good times. PAX (in its Eastern incarnation) is something quite special, yes I’m romanticizing a little bit here, but there is something about the sense of community, as Cliffy B. noted during his “storytime,” that allows us to revel in who we are in a way that the rest of the world never seems to understand. That is what PAX (and any conventions one chooses to attend for any slice of fandom you can name) is all about: an unburdening from the concerns of the outside world.

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30 Day Video Game Challenge: Days 22-23

Day 22:  A Game Sequel That Disappointed Me

Insterstate ’82.  Hands down.  Developed in house at Activision it dumbs down the customization options for vehicles (not quite to Twisted Metal-like levels) and given the emphasis on “don’t get out of the car” in the first game the fact that you can leave your car in the second game makes little to no sense.  The game is such a non-entity that I can barely remember the plot save that involved tracking down Groove Champion.  Simplified mechanics, lackluster storytelling, and “advanced” graphics that lack the charm of the original make for a decidedly sour taste on the tongue.

Day 23: Game You Yhink had the Best graphics or Art Style

The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker.  To this day I think the vibrant cell-shaded graphics are more expressive than any Zelda game since.  Some decried the move, especially after the realistic Gamecube tech demo at the time, but I thought that Wind Waker’s bright colors and fluid motion were absolutely gorgeous.

30 Day Video Game Challenge Day 20: Favorite Genre

This one goes hands down to role playing games.  Not that massively multiplayer garbage.  Old school, 40+ hour, RPGs.  With cloth maps!  Hack and slash or story based there are few kinds of RPGs I don’t enjoy.  Over recent years there has been a lot of RPG bleed through into other genre.  In some cases this is a mechanical effect: loot, experience, levels and in others it is a bit more subtle.  Something like Mass Effect 2 is an RPG, but at the same time it’s action heavy gameplay mean it trends towards an action game as well.  I used to joke that ability enhancing equipment in Tiger Woods were magic items; was I wrong?  Everything from Call of Duty to Halo: Reach have turned to the carrot of experience points (or credits, or whatever) to lead you ever onward.

 

30 VGC Day 21: Best Story

I’m not a fan of survival horror games.  I’ve just never really been able to play them.  So, when I give my best story nod to i Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem you should know that I don’t do so lightly.  It helps that I’m a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft and while Eternal Darkness doesn’t use the Mythos proper the world and metaphysical elements are strikingly similar.  Denis Dyack and the crew at Silicon Knights managed to weave together a compelling mystery that stretches across several time periods into a single cohesive and engrossing narrative of cosmic horror.  The twelve playable characters spanning over 2000 years of human history serve as the vector for an intricate plot that always ties back to the present day (2000, at the time) in a surprisingly effortless approach that despite the breadth of the action is never overwhelming.

This is problem one of the best games of the last generations and deserves more recognition and maybe a new game set in the same world.  I’d love to see what type of horrors Silicon Knights can conjure up with today’s hardware.

 

30 VGC Day 17: Favorite Video Game Protagonist

Say one thing about this challenge, it definitely calls to mind what aspects of video games I gravitate towards and which I don’t.  The topic for Day 17, favorite video game protagonist, is pretty difficult mainly because there isn’t one I really feel excels above others.  If you were to extend this topic to “fictional protagonists from any media” you would be hard pressed to find any video game characters in the top 10 or even the top 100.  Since apparently I can’t help meddling in things I’m going to split this topic into two things: a video game protagonist I really really like and a video game protagonist I think is really really interesting.

The first half of that is actually a really long list.  The name that pops into my mind most consistently is Gordon Freeman.  Silent, inscrutable, and iconic he is perhaps the most bad ass physicist to walk this world or any other.

Of course like many video game protagonist he is proxy for the player.  I feel very few video games have managed to create and introduce protagonists that are worthwhile characters in their own right.  This brings me to the second part I mentioned: a protagonist I find interesting.  The video game protagonist that fascinated me the most was Grand Theft Auto IV’s Niko Bellic.  Violent, cynical, with a checkered past I was fascinated by his complicated nature.  Bellic remains, to this day, one of the few (if not the only) character that felt in some way real to me.  Which is sad since the gameplay of GTA IV was not enough to keep me playing; Niko’s story remains unfinished.   Part of Niko’s realistic portrayal is the stunning voice work by Michael Hollick but the solid writing lends him an unexpected level of emotional depth.

30 Day VGC Day 15: Best Cutscenes

Day 15 is supposed to be a screenshot the game I am currently playing.  Since I don’t have a screenshot at the moment I’m swapping days 15 and 16.

Game with the Best Cutscenes

I’m going to give this one to Interstate ’76.  By and large I don’t like cutscenes but something about the stylized polygons of I76 and the well-acted characters hit all the right notes.

30 Day VG Challenge Weekend Edition!

Day 13: A game you’ve played more than five times.

I’ll be honest, I barely have time to play a game once let alone five times.  Even games I love I’m not sure I could play five times.  Though I haven’t played them to completion I have started characters and campaigns in the Baldur’s Gate series more than five times.  That’s about as close as I’ve gotten.  If you extend this to multiplayer games, particularly those that don’t really have a single player component, then top honors (by a longshot) goes to the Battlefield series by EA/Dice.  Between Battlefield 1942 (and its glorious mod Desert Combat), Battlefield 2, Battlefield 1943, and Battlefield Bad Company 2 I’ve logged way too much time.

Day 14: Most recent gaming wallpaper.

I had some Mass Effect 2 wallpaper a while ago.