Category Archives: student blogs

Bots & Whatnot~

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Beep-Beep-Boo-Bot: Revisiting Bots

So, at this point in my exploration of the digital humanities, I’m not unfamiliar with bots. In fact, I’ve written about them at length before. More, I’ve written about the ethics or lack thereof of bots here.

This isn’t to say that I’ve, by any means, said all there is to say about bots, just that I have thought about them and their functions in detail before. And, more, as far as interacting with and creating bots, this isn’t my first rodeo.

Anyway, that disclosed, let’s get to this week’s activities!

First, after discussing what a bot is for those who are unfamiliar with them, we explored some different bots on Twitter. I decided to check out some of the bots mentioned in this article by Lainna Fader. Since I already do follow a lot of bots (mostly sappy poetry ones #itswhoiamasapersonsorrynotsorry), I wanted to check out some ones that come highly recommended~

Two of my favorites were the @420worldclock bot and the @wikisext bot. Totally nsfw but pretty Great~ @420worldclock seems to co-opt the the adage I’m writing this at 4:20pm AHHHHH btw~ “It’s always happy hour somewhere” to “It’s 4:20 somewhere” and tweet out about that.

Meanwhile, @wikisext is pretty self-explanatory, no???

Personally, I think this bot gives Great advice >.< Totally recommend checking out for yourself~ (if it’s your cup of tea)

After interacting with and exploring a few bots, next, we put our newly-found bot prowess to the test to see if we could differentiate between bot poetry and, you know, traditional poetry. Not as easy as it sounds???

Check it:

Click to view slideshow.

For the most part, I was able to identify Poe, Dickinson, Neruda, some Keats, and some Blake but, in my opinion, including e.e. cummings was just unfair >.> I mean, have you read his work??? Come on!

There were also some really Great works that totally should be famous poems. Like, look at this:

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Genius. Absolutely Great.

…Anyway, moving on~

I found it interesting to see just how similar some bot-generated poetry could be to works written by people. For some of the works, it was easily to spot the thing that made the poetry come alive. That human hand. But, for a surprising number, it was rather difficult to identify them as bot-generated. I’m not sure what that implicates for the future of the medium and of technology but it’s certainly interesting.

Revisiting Making Bots

After exploring the medium and discussing some of the functions and applications of bots, both positive and nefarious, we got to the crux of the matter: making our bots.

Now, as I mentioned, I’ve already made a bot. This pesky, circle-talking faerie… (she talks a little very-scary but don’t worry too much~ she’s harmless ^.^)

So, I didn’t really experience much difficulty in the process of creating one. It took me some time to come up with a format for the things I wanted the bot to say, though. I got a topic I wasn’t overly enthused with discussing thank Alan. So, that took some time to develop. I came up with some Great hashtags, though, in my opinion… #zuckers, #zuckit, #zuckoff…. I mean, come on–those are Great ^.^

I didn’t really get much interaction with my bot-generated content, though. One person outside of the #netnarr scope did like a tweet, which was marginally exciting:

Aside from that interaction, the most I got on my tweets was a comment here:

and a retweet here:

along with a few likes here and there as well~

I’d say some of my replies to some tweets got more interaction. For example, this thread:

It generated some interaction amongst multiple users in the #netnarr sphere, at least. Other than that, I mostly felt like I was having one-sided conversations with other users~ (which, isn’t really all that different from most conversations I’ve had with other Twitter accounts tbh~ in my experience, most aren’t super responsive to comments??).

Don’t think I really influenced anyone all that much with my tweets but maybe some targeted hashtags could change that?? I’m not interested in keeping this bot running past this week, though. I like my personal account to be more organic~

I mean, look at the difference in my bot-reading that only a few days made:

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Added a few of my accounts for comparison~

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My bot-rating jumped from 29% before using bot-generated content to 41% after incorporating only a few days worth of bot-generated content. It’s kind of odd that it’s the same percentage though as my other account, @hellsskell24, which has never had any bot content on it. And, to be honest, I kind of expected my actual bot account, @noxsiog, to have a higher bot-rating. I mean, it is a bot.

Anyway, I thought this was an interesting experience. I wish we could have generated more discussion within the #netnarr thread, at least, but I still like this approach to teaching bots. It’s interactive and creative~

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Links

Twit 1 & Twit 2

Killing It: Some spooky/creepy/disturbing little stories I wrote inspired by bot prompts/nonsense #shamelessselfpromotion

Goodies

Some bots I highly recommend following:

@DothTheDoth

@SICKOFWOLVES

*I mean, this is Great.

@DarkRothko

@s8n

~Till Next Time~

Inanimate Alice

We’ve now made the full transition into the electronic literature part of our lectures. For my first post regarding this topic I will be writing about the electronic literature piece that I did a presentation on last semester, Inanimate Alice.

Inanimate Alice is an electronic literature concerning the life and development of the main character of the piece named Alice. The first episode starts off in China, where 8 years-old Alice describes her life and living situation which includes her father working for some undisclosed company and unknown work activities—while Alice and her mother stay in the “base camp” waiting for his return.

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As I described in my presentation of Inanimate Alice last semester, I was immediately put on edge when I looked through this electronic literature—this is due to the imagery and audio that accompanies the piece.

The imagery is blurry and faulty like a flickering light in a tense scene in a horror movie, and the music sounds like its straight up inspired from the theme music in the video game Silent Hill. At first, I thought Inanimate Alice was a horror story, because of its delivery and pacing—but I realized that it is only appropriate to lump Inanimate Alice in with the horror genre if one views the entirety of the several episodes from an overarching perspective. Episode One (and Episode Four to some degree as well) is only horror so far as the fact that Alice is a small child and we, the viewers, are asked to view everything from her eyes and position as a child with almost no say as to what happens to her.

Some of the pieces in the Inanimate Alice series is quite eerie in its presentation and atmosphere. This is most likely to emphasize the fear surrounding Alice’s lack of control of her own childhood and future.

The electronic literature itself is built like a “video game” straight from a webpage in the 90’s. The majority of the transitioning pages contain some sort of text that pushes the plot forward while the reader is given the option to click either an arrow (which functions and the progression key) or, in some cases, the reader is presented with one or multiple images to click. This offers, at minimum, some variety to your standard interactive fiction, and at best helps to set the mood of the piece with its multitude of images that directly relate back to the story. More often than not, the reader is allowed to play around with these “multiple choice” options—as they often work as puzzles that need to be solved before the story can progress. Most of the time these “puzzles” aren’t too demanding, but at the very least they are mendatory to push the plot forward.

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All in all, Inanimate Alice is a series of 7 episodes of following the nomadic life of Alice and learning what becomes of her from her highy unusual adolescence—and one of my favorite pieces of electronic literature from last semester.

Gaming the System

*Much less fun than it sounds~

Painting the Town Red

This week, we talked about redlining–basically denying services either directly or indirectly to residents in certain areas of a city or town based upon the ethnic makeup of the residents. More specifically, we talked about the idea of digital redlining and how online algorithms can play a part in the contemporary implementation of redlining practices.

In order to learn more about digital redlining and how it works, we watched a fascinating talk led by Chris Gilliard:

Aside from this talk, Chris also contributed to this article about how digital redlining operates at the university level. Essentially, the appropriate use policies (AUPs) can become knowledge-blocks for many students at community institutions. Being that community colleges are typically populated by working-class individuals, many of whom come from a more ethnically diverse background, this problem becomes one of digital redlining.

Because online spaces are where an increasing number of people primarily get their information from, restrictions such as these become not just issues of inequality and accessibility but of ethics as well. If the flow of information is restricted, then people simply cannot make informed decisions about things that can greatly affect the quality of their lives. More, by restricting access of certain knowledge, power is given to those who are not restricted. A game in which certain players are given all the knowledge and all the power while others are left totally unawares is not much of a game. At least, it’s not a very fun game, to say the least.

What I find particularly awful about the whole issue is that those who are being most affected by digital redlining are the ones who would have no idea, who are not informed and have no means of becoming informed. That is the game. This is especially sickening considering how often technology and the Internet are lauded as being “great equalizers”. The truth that so few have access those is that both could not be any farther from. You might even consider digital redlining the 2.0 version of the original–now new and improved.

Painting Newark, NJ Red

In order to learn just how close to home the issue of redlining is, this week in class we investigated possible instances of it occurring in nearby Newark, NJ. The activity asked us first to review this map charting inequality in the city and then to choose from a variety of other services to see if the locations of those services were possibly affected by the inequality of wealth revealed in the initial map.

I chose to see if there was any correlation between the historical redlining of Newark and the location of license plate reader (LPR) cameras. This is what I found:

https://h5p.org/h5p/embed/215322

In researching whether or not a kind of redlining is still present in Essex County, specifically in Newark, NJ, I noticed a possible correlation between LPR camera locations and the location of Newark’s poorer areas.

According to the LPR map, there is a cluster of LPR cameras located in the center of Newark, sandwiched between 2 areas (Third Ward and the Ironbound) identified by the inequality tracking map as “hazardous” zones. Now, this cluster could be related to the close proximity of Newark Penn Station–a major travel hub–but upon inspection of other large, travel hubs in the area, like the nearby Paterson rail station, that doesn’t seem to be the case. At least, there’s only 1 LPR location remotely near the Paterson rail station compared to the 5 LPR locations within a few blocks of each other near Newark Penn Station.

So, perhaps the cluster of LPR locations in Newark relates more to the “hazardous” designation of the overall area? What do you think?

My Make

Personally, I was quite surprised to notice a possible correlation even though I, myself, having grown up nearby, know there areas of Newark I want to avoid, especially at certain times. Driving into Newark this weekend, actually, for a concert, I found myself thinking more deeply about the issue of potholes on 21–the main drag through the city. 21 stretches across Essex county and into Bergen county–where I now reside. There is a clear distinction between the amount of potholes encountered, though, between the two counties. More specifically, between the city limits of Newark and the surrounding areas. Seems potholes on 21 are more worth filling outside of the city >.>

Returning to Sound

In contrast to the rather depressing topic of redlining and its digital counterpart, this week also had us finishing up our work on interacting with empathy games. (I think an empathy game about digital redlining could be pretty good, yeah?)

Anyway, this other activity had us recording questions about empathy games designed by students in Prof. Maha Bali’s class in Cairo, Egypt. Prof. Bali’s students would then record and upload their responses to the shared padlet. Once all the audio components were available, we had to download them and use them to create a new, cohesive whole–an “interview” of sorts in Audacity.

Now, I don’t really like working with audio myself but I think my project turned out pretty well. There are some rough patches in it and, of course, there’s how awful I think I sound recorded but, other than those *minor* issues, I am pleasantly surprised with how my interview turned out. But, don’t take my word for it.

Have a listen yourself:

Mainly, I think my intonation is off in some places and conflicts with prior recordings which makes it obvious that this was not recorded all at once. Also, for some reason, I think I sound more condescending in places where I didn’t intend to and I don’t know why???? Audio is weird.

But, again, what do you think?

I was going for this being like a podcast of sorts–hence the jazzy intro and outro~ Does that vibe come through or nah? What’s your impression of this work?

Jazzy Intro & Outro

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Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

~Till next time~

Planetside 2

These last few weeks we’ve had a good couple of blogs cocerning videos games, which is completely in line with the our class schedule, but soon we will be moving into something that I’ve been looking forward to tackling—electronic literature. But before we get to that however, I will be doing at least a last blog on video games. This week I will be talking about the game that has officially taken up the most time on my Steam account; Planetside 2.

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Planetside 2 is somewhat unique in its approach. It breaks the traditional mold of a FPS (First Person Shooter) by dividing the teams in three instead of the classic setup of two teams facing off against each other.

A crucial part of the game is choice. Choice plays a great part in Planetside 2, arguably a greater role than in most FPS games. Technically, there is no wrong way to play Planetside 2, although one could say that there are multiple ways of playing the game the most efficiently—and efficiency usually comes with the teamwork and participation of group activities within the game. A unit of players, or a battalion of players, or even a lone player can fulfill different roles to maximize their team’s capabilities.

What I mean by focusing on ‘efficiency’ is that that every player spawns on the server of their choice and is immediately presented with the possibility to do whatever they want to engage in the coming battle depending on their choice of class, vehicle, approach, and synchronized effort.

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The classes (particularly designated roles for the players to choose between) is open to anyone, meaning that if someone wants to play from afar then there are several ways to do that—for instance there’s the infiltrator, the engineer, and the heavy assault.

  • Infiltrators function as snipers and use their rifles to shooter enemy players with great accuracy from a great distance.
  • Engineers can craft minefields, repair vehicles and place auto-turrets to create a safe defensive area in the rear of the battlefield.
  • Heavy assault is the only class that can use handheld cannons to take out all of the different group and air vehicles.

However, if someone wants to be the offensive forces that pushes in the front of the battle then one can choose several roles to fulfill that job, one can even choose an offensive role and based on your own playstyle one can tailor the class to fulfill the player’s personal needs—for instance, there’s the infiltrators, engineers, and heavy assault. See what I did there? The exact same classes can fulfill opposite roles in played correctly.

  • Infiltrators are the only ones who can use limited invisibility to infiltrate the enemy bases and destroy the defensive mechanisms from the inside.
  • Engineers can craft minefields, repair vehicles and place auto-turrets to create a no-go zone for the enemy forces in the front unless they want to be used as target practice dummies.
  • Heavy assault is the only class that can activate a limited defensive shield that drastically reduces the power and damage of the enemy projectiles.

Besides the classes that I’ve already mentioned I left out Light Assault, Combat Medic, and MAX—which all offer their own unique style of custimizable gameplay as the others. Depending on how you would like to engage the endless battlegrounds that Planetside 2 offers, you can change your playstyle to accommodate the situations.

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One of the biggest eye-catching features regarding Planetside 2 however, must be the number of players engaging in the game at the same time. The number of players per map is 1200 players. And another one of the most eye-catching features is the delegation of teams per map, which is three. So, you have three different groups split into three teams fighting for the dominion of the map. The different factions are; Terran Republic (red), New Conglomerate (blue), and Vanu Sovereignty (purple). In fairness, this recipe offers the potential for chaos. There is no mandatory teamwork, everyone can move around the map to exactly where they want, and there is no win-condition except for the complete control of the map by a single faction—meaning that battles can last for several hours, while in its earlier stages the battles could last for days.

These features, as I put them, are great mechanics that enhance the gaming experience of Planetside 2, but there are those who argue that instead of lending to the game they have the reverse effect and diminish the participation. The freedom to do whatever you want can impact the overall achievements of your team and offers your opponents to log into the server, take up a spot on your four-hundred-man team and sabotage your victories. Another complaint of the game is the sheer potential for chaos with such a large number of players that participates. Sometimes this impacts the overall understanding of the situation at hand in-game, while sometimes the number of players that participates results in player’s computers to have problems keeping up.

Personally, I have a computer that is able to keep up just enough to where my gaming experience is not reduced, so I am unable to directly comment on that problem myself. But another point in its defense is the number of hours I’ve put into this game, which is five hundred and five hours—which makes Planetside my number one most played game on Steam.

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I’m leaving the link to one of the trailers of the game for anyone who’s interested, the trailer really delivers the massive scope of the battles that take place in the game:

Throwing Those Games Together~

(Heads up: This post may not be as put-together as usual due to the holiday weekend and because I’ve been doing research for my thesis proposal >.<)

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What Makes a Game???

In class this week, we continued our discussions from last week about 1) games, specifically online/electronic games, and 2) audio and using it as a medium for storytelling. Both lines of inquiry still new to me and a little daunting tbh~

Anyway, to begin with, we watched a video that talked about the different ways you can classify games. Check it:

More specifically, this video talked about classifying game-play via what of 3 aspects–Planning, Practice, or Improvisation–a creator wants to emphasize. As I had never heard of doing this before, I found it to be interesting. I tend to classify what few games I’ve come into contact with along much simpler lines–is it a fighting game? (like Smash Brothers or Mortal Kombat), a strategy game? (like Minecraft or chess), is it a “story” game? (like Assassin’s Creed or The Game of Life), or is it a “silly” game? (like Super Mario Cart or Cards Against Humanity).

Kind of similar but still different. Of course, my simpler classifications don’t necessarily address “combination games” or ones that utilize multiple aspects of game-play which is becoming increasing popular to do (which is a good way to appeal to a larger audience–so long as each aspect is appropriately juggled–but also a super easy way to please no one by trying to please everyone~).

After talking about the ins-and-outs of game-play as a whole, we moved on to discussing what we personally value in a game. In order to do this, we actually wrote out our thoughts on the classroom’s whiteboard. This way, we could see everyone’s thoughts and the overlap. Here are my thoughts:

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And here are everyone’s thoughts:

Even though I don’t play many fighting games, I do find those to be interesting–because of the inherent conflict, probably–and so most of my thoughts about what makes for good game-play revolve around them. I want the ability to level-up or to activate certain “powers” or special abilities and of course I want worthwhile match-ups and an interesting overall conflict. That quality could be broadened to be an interesting story-line period. Most of us seemed to value a compelling story-line–we want to relate to not only the characters but the story they are acting out. (In hindsight, it’s interesting that we all seemed to answer this question through the lens of us playing as characters in a story scenario~)

Other traits that we all seemed to agree were valuable in a game were there being a tutorial mode or else clearly explained directions, being able to auto-save our place in game, and there being an expansive “world” to the game.

Blast from the Past

After discussing game-play, we were introduced to the Internet Archive’s Software Library of MS-DOS Games. Basically, it’s a collection of old online/digital games. We got to peruse the library and experience what is was like to play some older games. Once we got a bit of a feel for them, then we each chose one game we were interested in learning more about. The game that caught my fancy was Alley Cat.

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What the screen looks like when you start to play~ (I’m currently free-falling in the upper-left corner >.< But you can see Felicia in the bottom left window!)

According to the info provided in the archive, Alley Cat was a video game released by the Synapse Software Corporation (1981-1984) in 1984. There was an Atari 8-bit version of the game as well (released in 1983). Alley Cat was designed to be an action game “consisting of several mini-games tied together”. According to the Wikipedia article for this game, the several mini-games are:

  • “In one room there’s a table with a birdcage on it in the middle of the room. Here the objective is to push the birdcage off the table and then catch the bird which escapes from the broken cage.
  • In another room, there’s a fishbowl which the cat can enter and must eat all the fish while dodging electric eels and repeatedly coming up for air to avoid drowning.
  • Yet another room contains a huge chunk of cheese with a number of holes. In each hole mice appear randomly, which the cat must catch.
  • The cat may also find itself in a room with a number of sleeping dogs, some of which have feeding dishes in front of them. The cat must empty each dish without waking up any of the dogs.
  • In another challenge, the cat must collect three ferns from the top of a bookshelf while avoiding a disproportionately large spider that may lower itself upon the cat from above.”

Now, I feel I should backtrack and provide more info about the actual concept of the game in order for this above list to make sense. Basically, in Alley Cat, you’re playing as a *you guessed it* little black, alley cat–named Freddie–who is trying to reach the pretty white cat–Felicia–who lives in one of the apartments on the other side of the fence from his alley. In the process of trying to find the correct apartment Felicia is in–by jumping from garbage cans to fences to clothing lines to open apartment windows all while dodging the boots and garbage being thrown at you–you’ll end up in many different apartments that all have their own challenges to complete (as you can see from the above list).

According to WikipediaAlley Cat has 30 levels of increasing difficulty. Upon reaching level 30, though, game-play can continue indefinitely.

Now, full disclosure, I didn’t get very far trying to complete level-fucking-one. I could barely get Freddie to jump on the garbage cans lets alone get him to jump from clothing lines to open windows.

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(Actual visual of me trying to play this game >.<)

So, I would decided not call this an easy game to play. At least, not for someone’s only prior experience in playing online games is Neopets >.>

Don’t let my poor performance deter you though! Have a go at it and let me know how you do?? How would you classify this game??? Personally, I think it’s primarily a practice-focused game (the object to complete a task over and over until it is mastered) though it does have some aspect of planning to it (you’ve got to have a strategy for picking out those windows, you know??? Gotta find Felicia!).

So….What’s the Story??

So, I definitely didn’t have time this week to come up with a full backstory for this game but I did imagine that Freddie and Felicia were both feral cats who lived happily in the alley behind this apartment complex until Felicia was “rescued” by one of the tenants and adopted. That’s why she keeps peeking out the windows–trying both to escape and to tell Freddie where she is so he can come and be with her again. It’s kind of a combination “damsel-in-distress”/”forbidden romance”–’cause male feral cats typically have a bad rep and are less desired for it–story.

Sorry Felicia >.< that’s kind of my fault too~

I’d love to sit down and write this story if I get the chance but I hope my imagination is good enough for now~

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Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

Twit 1 & Twit 2

*So, I added my questions to the Padlet and I see that Ayah and Manar have uploaded their answers to my questions (plus another draft of their game that I really need to check out!) but I’m still working on editing the audio. Tbh, it really helps me out that we have 2 weeks to work on this project. Because so many of us are unfamiliar with working with audio, I think it’s helpful to provide us with more time to work on audio projects. The end results of our work, too, I think will benefit from that extra time to spend with them.

Goodies

*Have you check out the NetNarr Alchemy Lab??? If not, why not??? It’s so cool and it came out beautiful. It’s a great example of how all the different things we’re learning about in class–digital art, Elit, gaming, audio, etc.–cane come together to create a really compelling work of art. More, it’s a great example of how collaboration can facilitate creativity in new and fun and exciting ways ^.^ I’m so happy I to be a part of this project.

*My bone-chilling, spooky, cannibally part of the NetNarr Alchemy Lab for anyone who didn’t already check it out XD~

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~Till Next Time~

The Fallout Series

It’s Easter, you nerds! You know what that means. No more work! Jkjk, there’s plenty of work to be done in the coming week, I just wish we didn’t.

For this week I’ll be talking about a game that I was recently reminded of: Fallout 4, and Fallout: New Vegas. I regard both of these two games to be great at what they do: let the player take part in a post-apocalyptic world where the rules and laws of society are thrown out the window and so is your own sense of personal safety.

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Out of the two games I played Fallout: New Vegas first, to be more precise, I played Fallout: New Vegas when I was supposed to be studying for my ‘exphil’ exam the first semester of my time here at the University of Bergen. But alas, I was playing video games instead. (I passed the exam(s) just fine, don’t worry) Fallout: New Vegas was a dozy though, it was pretty old by anyone’s standard around the time I started playing it, but at the time it was released in 2010 it was considered a great release by the players.

The game starts with the players in the shoes of the playable character named ‘the courier’. The story only tells you the bare minimum of what you need to know to begin playing. You’re a courier and your package was intercepted and stolen by Benny (voiced by Matthew Perry!) who promptly tells you “it’s just business” before he shoots you in the head and leaves you in your already dug out grave in the Mojave Desert of ‘New Vegas’. What happens next is that you’re recovering from your head wound in a run-down medical center, with amnesia. From that point on, more or less, you’re able to decide for yourself what to do in this unfamiliar place.

The game itself starts and runs somewhat similar to the game I discusses in my previous blog, Dark Souls. The character’s past isn’t crucial to the plot going forward, what matters is what choices you make throughout the game following you picking up the remote controller.

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Fallout 4, however, is filled with references and plot twists depending on your past—a stark contradiction to its predecessor. Fallout 4 starts with your creating your character, witnessing a nuclear attack in American soil, entering the bomb shelter successfully, and you entering into your ‘cryo sleep’. Several plot twists and plot lines are revealed later in the story to have a deep impact because of the past. Fallout: New Vegas shows us how to make a traditional role-playing game where the character is you and you make the decisions—while Fallout 4 is more of a game that follows a strict storyline, with the occasional moment where you can make a slight impact on the overall story.

Despite this ‘huge’ difference in the two games of the same series, the game mechanicals and playstyle is very similar. With the addition of Fallout 3, all of these three games follow a somewhat cookie-cutter format of how the game is played. They’re all played in a third-person perspective, the game focuses on exploring the world around you to uncover the land and lore, siding with different factions tied together by war and differing ideologies, and the confrontation with several philosophical and ethical questions—which is a staple of the series by now.

With Easter just starting, perhaps it is the perfect time to do another dissection of these very different, yet very alike games. Happy Easter everyone. 🙂

 

Working with Audio???

I think I’m funny~

Anyway, this week we covered an almost confusing number of different subjects. So, please bear with me as I try to get wandering, wondering thoughts together ^.^

Empathy or Lack Thereof

One of this week’s topics was that of “empathy games”. According to this article by Eric Bartelson, empathy games are ones that confront players with “real human issues…things like depression, bullying, terminal illness, or suicide”. Through playing these games and “experiencing” these issues “first-hand”, players, ideally, develop a more complex understanding of the issue and so are able thereto forth to empathize better with people going though similar issues IRL.

At least, that’s theory.

Many game designers themselves are skeptical/critical of the idea that empathy can be developed to such an extent via game-play. More, many game designers seem that empathy is a skill every game should be striving to develop and so labeling any specific set of games as “empathy games” is redundant. In this way, and as Bartelson states, the divide seems to be over whether or not empathy is “a genre or a game mechanic”. Which, to me, is an interesting division and, to be honest, since I’m not someone who plays very many games, I’m not sure what side of the divide I fall on.

Certainly, I believe that a game alone cannot develop or refine one’s own empathy. That’s the reverse of the “video games incite violence” argument–spoiler they don’t and a government bogging down discussions about any particular reforms to even entertain the notion is grossly irresponsible and tbfh stalling but I digress…>.>. Like I mentioned in our Twitter chat on Tuesday night, you can have the best message in the world in your game but if players can’t connect that message to something on the outside, if there’s no transfer then I’m not sure how it helps facilitate genuine empathy.

See, I believe designers can direct their messages so that they are received within IRL context. But, I also believe:

My line of thinking seems to fall in line with Simon Parkin’s thoughts in this article in which the disconnect between creator intent and game design is discussed. Basically, Parkin reiterates what I just said: a game with a good idea but a bad follow-through is kind of a problem. More, that equation can create a problem. Parkin references a study in which the game Spent–an online game about surviving poverty–and its effects are researched. What the study found was that it actually made people, even those who sympathized with the poor prior to playing the game, empathize less with poor people. Essentially, the game made people believe poof people had more choices than they actually do in reality. Colleen Macklin, a game designer cited in this article, summarizes the phenomenon, “In a game you have complete agency, but in some life situations, people have no choice. If a game is trying to create empathy in this way, it can back-fire spectacularly.”

When creating a game you hope will instill a deeper sense of empathy, intent doesn’t seem to be enough. More, you have to be careful you’re not “game-ifying” a real situation too much or else you may alter the reality of it and so muddle/not accurately portray your message.

That said, a game I think “game-ified” an IRL situation just right is Bad News. I freakin’ loved this game.

In Bad News, players become the propagators and perpetuators of “fake news” online. “Drop all pretense of ethics and choose the path that builds your persona as an unscrupulous media magnate” the game encourages. The goal of this game is to gain as main “followers” as you can through establishing fake credibility online (mostly via Twitter). The other goal, in my opinion, is to be as obnoxious as you possibly can i.e channel Trump >.>..

I had a blast:

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I’ll admit, at first I was trying to be a good person and pick the “ethical” choices but once I realized that was losing me followers (and not the object of the game) I just went full on obnoxious. Spread an anti-vaxxer conspiracy theory??? Sure. Smear a legit news agency cause they had the audacity to report on something bad I actually did??? Why the hell not??

What can I say?

I got into it.

Anyway, fun aside, I do think this game illustrates the point it’s trying to make pretty clearly. Though, if you don’t have the cultural context–say you live in a 1-party state or your country doesn’t have access to much technology or internet–I don’t know how well the message would stick because it’s social commentary, in a way, right? I get that this game is trying to make a point of how fake news is made and propagated but I also think it’s trying to show just how easy it is to slip into that mindset/head-space where you’re more interested in sensationalizing issues, “making headlines”, and in gaining followers than in making ethical or responsible decisions. Even if that wasn’t an objective by design, this game did a damn fine job of bringing it to attention.

But, what do you think? More, after playing a so-called “empathy game”,  how do you feel?

Amping Things Up

Switching gears this week, we also began discussing sound as a means for storytelling.

Now, I have to admit I’m not super enthused for this shift in focus. Sound is not really my medium. Don’t get me wrong, I love my podcasts–listening to them while I’m doing my make-up in the morning–and I’d probably kill someone if I couldn’t listen to my music in the car but I’m not really into or interested in playing around with sound myself. The thought just doesn’t inspire the same excitement as talking about art or Elit.

That said, I’m open to learning more about how to use sound to tell a good story. I’m so used to it being background noise, I think it’ll be cool to explore it as its own kind of art and story.

For this week’s Make, I did attempt to explore sound as a means for telling a story. Check it:

 https://soundcloud.com/kelli-hayes-365566554/frustration-1

It’s not my best work but I’m happy enough with how it turned out. I’m a lot more rusty with Audacity than I thought I’d be but this video helped me out a lot. (I also totally forgot how to upload from Audacity to Soundcloud.)

Anyway, technical issues aside, the idea behind my little story here was inspired by the incessant clacking of my own keyboard. Once I decided I wanted that to be my background sound, I was able to establish the rest of the story.

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I added some notes in the margins once I found the sounds I wanted on freesound~

Really, my story is just a snippet of what it’s like to live online–closing yourself away to open up elsewhere, the incessant typing that gets increasing more frustrated as your message notifications keeps pinging, and the frustrated sigh that another annoying ping swallows up. Don’t get me wrong, I love the life digital means affords me but it can be freakin’ annoying sometimes~

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My view while workin’ on those bars~

My Make

Did you get that message??? Or, could it use some work?? Let me know and maybe you’ll get a ping-back 😉

****

Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

This Week’s Spells:

*I love this throwback DDA ^.^ The book spine poetry was one of my face DDAs from the first time around. I enjoy combining my love of books with my burgeoning love of new new digital media. This DDA also gets me to “remix” real life, removing the context from my books and placing them in a new one. I love it~

*As for this DDA, I decided to take a close-up shot of my fave pinky highlighter (J. Cat Beauty’s You Glow Girl highlighter in the shade Bella Rose for any fellow make-up junkies ^.^). It looks like a cotton-candy floss universe, doesn’t it? ❤

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*I chose to look at the game our friends in Egypt, Ayah and Manar, are currently in the process of developing. Their game is designed to teach/inform players about illiteracy and how it affects the everyday lives of people and the choices they are able to make. Ayah and Manar talk about their game here and have a prototype you can play here. So far, I really like the project and thinks it’s shaping up to be a real learning tool. I talk more about what I think is effective so far in my comments on the posts so I highly recommend you check those out and, of course, the good work Ayah and Manar are doing!!

Dark Souls and it’s lore design

After hearing Elias’ presentation on Dark Souls, there are two parts that I consider crucial to the overall identity of the game that I want to touch upon. The post-apocalyptic scenario of the world—a key component of the core of the world of Dark Souls—and the ambiguity of the prophecy concerning the player. To do this however, I need to do a quick summary of the hidden plot of the Dark Souls, the plot that mostly takes place in the past. The character you play is in this weird position of being an inconsequential character to the world while at the same time he is the most important individual to the overarching plot of the game. Confused yet? Let’s go deeper.

There exists a prophecy in the world of Dark Souls that says that one day a ‘Hollow’ will “rekindle” the flame. (Hollows are humans who are slowly degenerating into a state of being Undead, essentially humans who are without hope or drive) This is the very same flame that Lord Gwyn chose to sacrifice himself to so many years ago in a desperate attempt to rekindle it as it was slowly fading away. The “flame”, essentially, represents life, humanity, and hope.

The character that you play in Dark Souls—an unnamed human—is supposed to represent the individual player that picks up the remote control. Making the character an unnamed human, with no ties to the past or future, make it the perfect avatar for the player. (Sort of how Link in the Legend of Zelda doesn’t have a voice, but instead is only given a different array of battle cries—this makes the character incredibly viable for any and all players to identify with.) Essentially, the character is you, me, anyone who has ever picked up the game, and anyone who will ever pick up the game in the future. Because that is the brilliance of the underlying plot of the game;  the light will keep fading regardless of how many people ultimately chose to sacrifice themselves for humanity. The “chosen one” really only refers to whoever eventually manages to make it through the entire journey of the game. Once that player is done and has successfully completed the game, the flame will start to fade again, an another will have to serve as the next sacrifice. The prophecy itself is self-fulfilling—which is a brilliant design on the game developers part.

Let’s talk about the post-apocalyptic state of the world of Dark Souls. This component to the game’s story is executed masterfully. There is no real narration in the game, anyone can play through the story without picking up on basically any of the lore of the world. As Elias said in his presentation of the game on Thursday, barely anyone understand the story on their first playthrough of the game. That’s because the story and lore is intentionally vague and shrouded. One of the ways of learning the history is to read the description of various items and objects found and uncovered throughout the world. These usually describe events and characterize the previous owners.

But the most interesting part of the game is the state of decay that it is already in by the time you arrive on the scene. The world is slowly dying around you, but just as evident as the corrosion of the world is to the player, so is the marvel of the former glory of the world. You’re able to travel through enormous castles, vast landscapes, and awe-inspiring dungeons. This world feels like it at one point in time was living and breathing. So, what then caused its demise? This intriguing conundrum is what drives the lore-enthusiasts on the Dark Souls community to seek more and more knowledge and pieces of information out of the game.

This design choice is part of what inspired me in my work this last semester in Mia’s class when I worked on developing ‘the Lord of Light’, my piece of interactive literature for that subject. My goal was to create a work in which the story of the world was unraveled piece by piece through documents and parchments written down by historians throughout history. Once the reader had gathered enough history I wanted to prompt the reader to make a executive decision on a crucial choice that would determine the fate of the characters involved in the piece. Sadly, my ambitions for the project outweighed my competence and time available. However, I do plan on continuing the ‘Lord of Light’ piece and I hope that I will be able to complete it in its intended design.

For anyone interested, here’s a link to the actual work:
https://writer.inklestudios.com/stories/jb86

 

Why We Always Playin’????

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The Name of the Game

This week, we said до свидания to digital art and began our exploration of games and gaming. To be honest, not a big topic of interest to me. Shocking, I know.

Anyway, to start off our discussion on the topic in class, Marissa led a round robin where each of us described a game, digital if we could or not, we liked to the class. We went in a circle and the person who followed you in the circle would tweet out the game the person ahead of them described along with an interesting detail about it if they could. I was behind Patrice and ahead of Vanessa~

Patrice doesn’t really play many games so she didn’t have much to share about them, but here’s what I tweeted out about what she did say:

Like many of us, Patrice has a game on her phone (Candy Crush) she’ll play when she’s bored (sometimes get sucked into for too long if she lets herself something all of us seem guilty of….) but other than that, she’s more familiar with traditional board games like Trouble.

Again, this seems to be the rule not the exception for almost all of us. I don’t play games on my phone as much as I used to but I was pretty competitive and sucked into them at the height of my interaction. My poisons of choice were called BookwormNeko Atsume and High School Story (later Hollywood University when the creators expanded their enterprise). The first game was a wordplay game where you would get a random assortment of letters and have to create words from them in order to gain points. But, some of the letters were “on fire” and if they reached the bottom of the screen before you were able to make a word, the “library” would burn and you’d lose.

As for the other games, they had longer term objectives. You had to collect fish in Neko Atsume which would be left by cats after you fed them or gave them a toy to play with. These fish were used to pay for better food and toys which would attract more cats who would leave more fish and also mementos (which you couldn’t actually do anything with so I’m not sure why they mattered now???) And in the school games, you essentially created a little high school or university that you could populate with different kinds of students (jocks, nerds, preps, slackers, skaters, goths, cheerleaders, etc). There was a main cast of characters that moved the game’s objectives (main quests and side quests) along and, usually, at the completion of a quest you’d get to add one of those characters to your school. There were also exclusive outfits and buildings and decorations you could “win” or buy. It was kind of like a really low-key version of Sims (which was an online game many, like myself, are pretty familiar with).

All this said, the game I actually chose to describe was a card game perhaps most known for its infamy: Cards Against Humanity. Vanessa captured how I summed the game up pretty well:

Basically, Cards Against Humanity is Apples to Apples for adults~

I’m realizing, now, though this description does nothing for anyone who doesn’t know what Apples to Apples is. So, let me break it down a bit more.

Cards Against Humanity is a card game in which you get a set of topic cards with prompts (coloured black with white writing) and another set of cards with a wide array of captions on them that could be used to respond to/answer the prompt cards (these are coloured white with black type). Usually, you play this game in a group of 3-4 or more. Minimum 3 players. Every player gets 7 white cards. The first player to get 7 black cards wins. Though, arguably, the real objective of this game is to get the biggest laugh or to garner the largest reaction with your card combo.

See, these cards don’t have your usual array of prompts or responses. No. At best, you could describe them as outlandish or odd and at worst, horribly, terribly offensive. If you have a delicate system or if your sensibilities are easily offended, this is most decidedly not the game for you. My friends and I love it.

If you’re curious about exactly what kind of subject matter Cards Against Humanity dabbles with, I’d suggest playing a few rounds online. As far as I know, all the cards you play with online are actually in one of the many decks. (In case you didn’t know, the game has many decks and many more expansion packs with all different kinds of themes and nonsense. For example, my friends and I usually play with the bigger, blacker deck ^.^

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There are even unofficial expansion packs like Crabs Adjust Humidity which are pretty great as well and the main company doesn’t care that these exist. Another great thing about this game is the company itself which has the same sense of humor expressed in the game. Like, one year they sold literal b*llshit on Black Friday. Arguably, stunts like that along with the creators’ general nihilistic and apathetic attitude–which appeals greatly to its disillusioned young adult audience–have helped propel this game into popularity.)

So, yeah, I just went off on a tangent.

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Anyway, let’s see if I can get back to the subject at hand….

While, surprisingly to me, not everyone knew about Cards Against Humanity, most of the class was familiar enough with it. Many of us have played it before or seen it online. Stephanie even referred to it a drinking game…

Anyway, other than more traditional board games like Trouble or card games like Cards Against Humanity, the only other kind of game most of us seemed familiar with was Sims. 

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(For anyone who doesn’t know, Sims is a collection of simulated computer/console games that, well, simulate life. You can essentially live out an entire life through a simulated character or collection of characters. There are many version and expansions of this game along with a large community of creators who make mods you can download–with varying degrees of success and implementation–to use in the game.)

Almost all of us could say we lost hours of our lives playing Sims.

Many of us bought the expansion packs. Some of us played on our computers others on consoles. Most of us didn’t connect with any of the community features–we liked to play on our own. Some of us like myself used cheats in game #boolproptestingcheatsenabledtrueforlife~ Point is, this was a digital game many of us knew.

I think only about 2 of us were video gamers, though most of us knew some of the bigger games like World of Warcraft or League of Legends (my best friend made it to Platinum 3 in League maining Sora and sometimes Jinxx–and I actually know what this means because I wrote a short research paper on online gaming discourse a few years back which might now come in handy). It seemed like there was little interest amongst our group in participating too much with these games. Though, the topic of E-sports and competitive online gaming did draw some more intrigue.

My only knowledge of anything like an online gaming community comes from my participation with Neopets. I haven’t played in a while but I used to go on the site ever day and play games to earn Neocoins I could use to buy different items for my Neopets (of which there were many species and of which I only had 2) or for my “home”. Every year, there was also a site-wide gaming event called the Altador Cup. You chose to play for one of 16-17 teams which each represented one of the “world’s” many lands. I always played for the Darigan Citadel and did pretty well, usually earning enough points playing the soccer-style game to buy some top-tier prizes from the prize shop at the end of the month-long event. I even got an “All Star” trophy one year that would be displayed on my user look-up.

Anyway, that’s about the depth of my knowledge on online gaming~

So, being that not many of us are all that familiar with digital games, I think this unit will be an interesting and possibly enlightening learning experience for all of us~

Why Do We Play So Much???

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What stemmed from our conversation on games was another discussion about the purpose of games. Many of us described using games, especially those on our phones, as a way to counteract or subvert boredom. Some of us described playing a game as just a way to pass time. For a few of us, playing games was more about winning them.

But, is there a greater purpose to playing games and to games themselves?

This is something explored by Radiolab in one of their podcasts about games. In the show, the hosts talk about games and their purposes from many different angles. Far too many to address in this one post. But, one of the most interesting parts of this discussion for me was when they began talking games as being a way to both explore/express the imagination–all that could be possible and a way to explore bigger ideas like fairness. I’ve never heard games described this way until now. Though, this idea does touch upon something I believe Katherine mentioned in class–that though we may describe games and our interactions with them as “mindless”, they aren’t really. We’re still engaging in a stimulating activity whether we acknowledge it or not. More, that stimulation is not stimulation for its own sake. Many games, especially, now provide these outlet for users to exercise creative thought processes they otherwise may not be able to. Theory holds that the skills developed in-game transfer over into other areas of life outside the game, improving skills such as multi-tasking or communication.

Another interesting topic the podcast touched on and that I had never heard of before was that of the “novelty” of games. No, not that novelty. But, this idea that whenever you play most games checkers excluded there comes a point in the game where you initiate an action or make a move that has never been made before. That is the novelty. In chess, this occurs once you leave the “book” which is an online archive of all the moves in chess games ever made which I have some thoughts on but that’s another story.... It’s the play that you decide to make that has never been decided in game in same circumstances. It’s the manifestation of your imagination but also the maneuver that shows you know the name of the game (or else it couldn’t be made). This phenomenon is not exclusive to chess, though perhaps with the existence of the “book”, it is easier to acknowledge and document.

To me, I guess, the novelty is the magic of games. It’s what games are all about. They give you these moments that will never occur again and ask you to make a choice, leave a mark. Do something different. Imagine. Create. Play. I think all games minus checkers have the potential to do this and that is why they are important.

What about you?

You play?

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Links

Daily Digital Alchemies

*DDAs this Week:

I made a QR code for my blog using, shockingly enough, a charcoal drawing of a skull I did about a year ago~ What do you think? Spookily perfect for me, yeah?

As for this DDA, I wrote a little diddy that’s all very my style. To be honest, I clicked through hand after hand of cards the site dealt before I came across one that inspired me. Then, I added some slashing red and black lines in Paint and voila~

This was a really cool DDA and I kind of wish we went over this while we were talking about gifs. I think this would have been a really simple demonstration of early gifdom (i.e the really early precursor to online gifs).

 My personal favourite for obvious reasons ^.^~

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*Speaking of games and fun alchemy, this was a really fun and cool game we played this week in class. I didn’t get to talk about it in the main body of this post but I did enjoy this game and found myself growing oddly competitive??? And, maybe it’s the Slytherin in me, but I actually looked up cheats (which, were surprising to me in that they even existed???) to make some of the things I wanted to in this little alchemy lab game. Judge me if you will but once I was able to find a way to make all the little objects I wanted to, I was having a lot of fun~

*As for fun podcasts that I love, I think how “fun” they are depends entirely upon your definition of the word. I’ve been a loyal Murderino for a while now so I have to recommend My Favorite Murder. It’s a podcast all about, you guessed it, murder–the hosts “favorite” murders that week. Each show explores two different murders and the circumstances around the crimes. And, despite the heavy subject matter, the hosts do a phenomenal job of adding tasteful brevity throughout the show. For any true crime fan like myself, it’s a must-listen.

Another great podcast is Last Podcast on the Left. Now, this is a highly inappropriate approach to discussing murders, true crime, and conspiracy theories but it is Great. The hosts have such a witty, conversational banter that almost seems entirely improv-ed because it comes so naturally. The one guy provides some hysterical voice acting as well. Highly recommend you listen to this show in a room away from anyone who would be offended by Cards Against Humanity. This show makes the game seem tame~

~Till Next Time~

The Long Dark

The shift from digital art to video games gives me the perfect opportunity to write about a game that I have become a huge fan of—and a video game category that I normally would not say that I am a fan of—the survial game, the Long Dark.

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The Long Dark was released into its beta stage the 22nd of September in 2014—I didn’t hear about it until at least 2016. The game is created by Hinterland Studios and is a ‘survival game’. I’ve poured about 300 hours into this game and loved every second of it. The premise is pretty straight forward; you’re the only surviving passenger from the emergency crash-landing of an airplane travelling across the wilderness of northern Canada. The game throws you into a highly hostile territory that would like nothing else than to see you perish. The game is highly focused on surviving, this is key as basically every mechanic of the game is either out to kill you or help you postpone that promise of eventual annihilation that waits around every corner.

Right of the bat you need to get your priorities straight and adept to your surroundings. First thing’s first; you’re injured from the plane crash, and as such you need to find some bandage, painkillers, and antiseptic to clean and dress your wounds. If you can’t find these things in your surrounding area you can always look for natural remedies provided from nature, such as ‘usnea’ aka ‘old man’s beard’, or ‘rose hip’, or ‘reishi mushroom’—these all function as medicine harvested from nature.

You’re clothes are torn and ragged from the plane crash making your susceptible to the cold and the cutting wind of the harsh and barren land. You’re afforded a few options here, scour the land for clothes left behind by others, tear up already destroyed clothes and repurpose the scraps of the cloth that this yields you, or create new articles of clothes from the pelt and fur or animals.

You’re both famished and parched—you need to find food and water to sate your hunger and appease your thirst. The issue of thirst might seem benign at first—you’re constantly surrounded by heavy snow—but there’s the issue of successfully lighting a fire to melt the snow to make it drinkable. You might also think that the material required to start a fire is readily available to you. They’re not. There’s the issue of finding small sticks to serve as your tinder, and either logs of wood or broken wooden furtiture to serve as the body for the fire. Additionally, you will either need the limited number of matches to light a fire—and those are usually hard to come by—or you can be exceedingly lucky and find a magnifying glass, but lo-and-behold, you need calm weather and clear sky for that one to work (and it only works in the outdoors).

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And then there’s the whole food poisoning part of the game. You might search far and wide to only find a single can of dog food stocked away in an abandoned cabin—only to realize once you open it that it’s past its expiration date. Way past it. But who can afford to be picky in the final days of armageddon? There are some other options available to you however. The game provides you with a few options for hunting the wildlife of Canada, there’s plenty of both rabbits, and deer to eat—both neither one is just going to keel over and present themselves to you, you need to hunt them on top of everything else going on. Rabbits can be lured into simplistic spring traps laid down by you once you’ve gone through the lengthy process of crafting them, or you can hunt them with either stones (used to stun them for long enough for you to grab ahold of them), bow and arrow, or rifle and bullets—the two latter options requiring either immense patience to search for and finally find, and the other one immense patience to craft from scratch. (Also, there’s somewhat of a learning curve to be able to handle the various devices at your disposal.)

I’ve talked about some of the wildlife present in the game, but did I forget to mention the carnivorous wildlife that’s out to get you? Both wolves and bears would love to dine on you if presented the chance. Wolves usually go in packs while the bears enjoy their solitude, the harder the difficulty you choose to play on the farther away both agents will detect your smell and start to chase you—you’ve got some ways of combating these predators however. I just mentioned both the bow and arrow, and the rifle and bullets a paragraph ago, but you can choose other ways of proceeding. The pacifist approach would be to just turn around and walk the other way should you either spot or suspect the presence of any animals. Tips to alert you would be either the howls of wolves, the remains of a fresh deer carcass (usually surrounded by crows circling overhead), the heavy breathing of bears, or fresh tracks in the snow made from either party. Sometimes you can successfully scare off either one, the wolves can be scared by the lighting of torches, flares, or rocks thrown by the player—while the bear will usually only run if it’s shot by the signal gun.

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Up until now I’ve mostly talked about the survival aspect of the Long Dark, but I would like to touch on a part of this game that I previously have never truly been able to appreciate in any other games before it—the soothing atmosphere. The Long Dark is filled with the ambient sounds that one would expect from today’s games, but there is something about the atmosphere and aura present in this game which strikes me as unique. Apart from the truly terrifying moments of panic when presented with the potential permanent death (which is the only death presented in the game) by either wolf, bear, disease, starvation, or hypothermia—the game offers numerous genuine moments of contemplation and reflection. Once you’re out of the immediate dangers of either one of the aforementioned perils you’re presented with the question of ‘what now?’ Do I look for new food sources, do I take some time out of my schedule to fortify my temporary home (or headquarter), do I put in the time and energy to craft additional tools, do I look for medicine in case of future mistakes or blunders, or do I leave the comfort of my home and head out to seek my fortune in a differ part of the land? With the worry of perma-death hanging over your head at all times, the time and energy that you put into your every action becomes that much more serious and consequential. Leaving your home could result in you being ambushed by a bear, while staying in one spot will eventually drain all of the resources in the immediate area—either chose comes with its potential rewards and consequences.

The game masterfully pulls out the survival instincts you didn’t necessarily know you had in you and makes you feel like you’re truly fighting to survive with every day that goes by. Every day you’re presented with the toll of being alive and what it means to provide enough resources for your body to function and develop.

The Long Dark, to me, is a game of self-realization—regardless of how cheesy that might sound. It successfully rekindled a long forgotten sense of survival instinct within me—and I can only hope that there are other people out there who experienced that same sensation that I did while playing the Long Dark.

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