You Can’t Beat Video Games

You know you’ve finished a book when you read the last page; you know you’ve finished a movie when the credits roll. But how do you know when you’ve finished a video game?

 

I’ve finished the main story line of a handful of video games: Mass Effect, Portal 1&2, Skyrim, all the Bioshock Games, Arkham City, Until Dawn, Tomb Raider and a few others. I’ve seen the final cutscenes and the end credits on all those games, but I don’t feel as though I’ve beaten or finished any of them. Sure, I may have played out the narratives, but in Until Dawn I’ve only achieved one of the possible final outcomes and earned 20% of achievements. In Mass Effect I’ve only maxed out one of the romance options and I never even started acquiring the in-game collectibles. In Bioshock I’ve never gotten around to finding all of the audio diaries, and the list goes on.

 

Despite all this, I consider myself a completionist. That is not to say that I am prone to completing all side quests, finding all collectibles, and completing the main storyline on all difficulties (as I’ve mentioned, there’s no game in which I’ve done this). I do, however, imbue those aspects of video games with immense value. If I put a game down before I achieve completion according to every possible metric, I feel like a quitter. I don’t feel like I can say I played the game anymore than I could say I’ve read a book that I never finished.  

Blog_GameOver

(Though I’ve completed the main story line of Batman Arkham City, I’ve only completed 57% of the game)

 

Check the global stats for any game, however, and you’ll see that most people don’t complete anywhere near 100% of the achievements, and in many games most players don’t even earn all the achievements related to main story completion. People don’t often “complete” games, and in most games true completion is nigh on impossible. Games differ from novels and film in that they aren’t designed for everyone to stop at the same point; there isn’t always a clear end or a point of victory. Because of the numerous metrics of accomplishment built into video games, of which main story completion is only one, the definition for the “end” of a game based artistic medium is far more fluid than the end of a written work, film, musical work, etc.

Blog_BatmanAcheivement

(The Last Laugh achievement indicates that you’ve completed the main storyline; only 19.5% of players earn that achievement)

Take, for instance, the Pokemon games. When I was young I thought I’d beaten  Pokemon Fire Red because I defeated the “Elite Four,” who serve as a final trial for aspiring Pokemon Masters, and signify the end of the main story line. But I realized my friend had cataloged more Pokemon in his Pokedex, so suddenly I was playing the game again trying to catch up. I collected nearly every creature in the game, but eventually, due to some difficulties acquiring Golem and Machamp, I stopped. Even if I had collected all of the Pokemon would I have beaten the game? The answer is simply no. The main story and the Pokedex are only two of a potentially infinite number of metrics for success. The game lays out level and stats as metrics of success as well, so maxing out all of those values would be necessary for the game to be truly completed. Additionally, the Pokemon games include incredibly rare algorithmically generated “shiny” Pokemon with alternate colorations. Collecting all of these shinies creates still another metric of completion. Even if every metric within the game was fulfilled (which would require thousands upon thousands of hours of grinding and spec training) there are countless player created metrics, such as the famous nuzlocke challenge, that could be used to paradoxically complete the game more.

 

Increasingly such functions are incorporated into games by the developers themselves. The “new game plus” feature has become more and more common; once you’ve completed a game, you can complete it again with increased difficulty and all the abilities you may have earned in the principal game. Furthermore, achievements and trophies (awards granted out-of-game to individuals who complete certain tasks) have created a game within a game. In video games, most actions are considered positive or negative based on the in-game effects they produce. For instance, in one game, firing a rocket directly at your feet is considered a negative action because doing so heavily damages your character and yields no reward; in another game, it is considered a positive action because you take only a small amount of damage and launch yourself vertically to double your standard jump height.

giphy.gif

(damage taken+no gain=negative action)

 

giphy (2)

(little damage taken+double jump=positive action)

 

Achievements bypass this evaluative frame by encouraging actions which often have no discernible effect on the gameplay (such as the Transmission Received achievement in Portal). Developers can direct players to accomplish tasks which outline an underlying component of the game not apparent in an achievement free play through of the game. Thus, a subtextual game within the principal game can be established by achievements, and this subtextual game can often be no less important than the principal game itself. This introduction of additional material to the game via achievements results in games that very few people actually complete. The numerous metrics of success in every game allow the player to decide which metric indicates that he or she has beaten the game, and when that metric is fulfilled the player will either quit or establish a secondary metric to pursue. This process can repeat itself a potentially infinite number of times, as there is no finite number of metrics in any game.

 

The only potential exception to this is pure progression based games, such as Until Dawn and those made by Telltale Games, in which the primary gameplay mechanic is decision making. In these games you can in fact attain all permutations of the game in a relatively low number of playthroughs and achieve something as close to completion as possible. It is that fact, along with their lack of endgame, which aligns such platforms with novels and movies, which, as I mentioned at the outset, have a clear beginning and end. With nearly every game outside of this genre, however, the player is essentially unable to “complete,” he or she can only decide when to quit. This is an element of video games which imbues them with a realism absent from most artistic mediums; as in real life, there’s always more you could have done, and how far you go is determined by the difficulty of the challenge and your own desire to keep fulfilling the metrics of success.

Advertisements

Evolution of a Franchise with New Media

SPOILER ALERT: Spoilers for Fate/Stay Night and Fate/Grand Order ahead.

Note: As there are too many spin-offs in the Fate franchise, I will be focusing on the main works related to “Fate/Stay Night.”

The Fate franchise is one I have followed since experiencing the first work in the franchise, “Fate/Stay Night.” Now one of the globally top-grossing Japanese franchises, “Fate/Stay Night” was originally humbly released in 2004 as a standalone work, a Bildungsroman in the ‘visual novel’ format, just prior to the widespread popularization of the genre of PC game software in Japan. A ‘visual novel’ is a form of mixed media, a kind of remediation of multiple genres, where the player of the game reads the text of a novel, sees events and reactions as depicted by static or animated character sprites on computer graphic backgrounds, hears the speech of characters as well as sound effects of events while background music changes in the background, and can make different choices – sometimes a large number of choices, sometimes a small number of choices – in order to change the direction of the story, called a “route,” much like the path the player, the protagonist, chooses to reach the ending, much like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, or a video game. In addition, players can save and load at different decisions should they make the wrong decision and reach a ‘bad end,’ or perhaps would prefer to pursue the story from a different direction. It is also possible for players to clear the novel selectively, e.g. progressing through one story route but not the others, or completing every route, including all bad ends. This allocates a large amount of freedom to the player, and allows for a multitude of ways and orders the stories can be told, as it offers an all-around immersion with the simultaneous experience of the visual stimulation of characters and actions on the screen along with the text to be read and animations for actions, aural stimulation as characters speak, events play out, and music plays, causes the players to think about which choices to make and when they should save, and more.

shirou_-_3x_bring_ilya_back

Sample choices in the visual novel, Fate/Stay Night.

In “Fate/Stay Night”, the player is thrust into the position of an inexperienced magus who is suddenly thrust into a battle of seven mages for the Holy Grail, eponymously named the ‘Holy Grail War.’ Equipped with a ‘Servant,’ the spirit of a heroic warrior from legends, he must fight for the Holy Grail in order to make a single, omnipotent wish. Depending on the choices the player makes, the story ultimately takes us through three big arcs representative of different facets of the protagonist’s growth, with the primary route ‘Fate’ displaying the slanted ideals of the protagonist with the theme of “Oneself as an ideal,” the second route ‘Unlimited Blade Works’ which shows us the protagonist’s resolve with the theme of “Struggling with oneself as an ideal,” and the third route ‘Heaven’s Feel’ displaying the protagonist’s resolution of his previous issues with the theme of “The Friction between the real and the ideal.” Due to this format, it is possible to interpret the events of the story in different ways, which results in different people receiving a divergent message from the content they have played through.

fate-stay-night-full-1024403

Example of a Computer-Generated Graphic depicting a battle in Fate/Stay Night.

While “Fate/Stay Night” was meant to be a standalone project, its immense popularity spawned a large number of follow-up works, including sequels and prequels. One of those such works is “Fate/Hollow Ataraxia,” which is a visual novel sequel of “Fate/Stay Night.” Ataraxia’s continuation of the story of Stay Night proved to be difficult due to the divergence of the routes and the varying results in each of the timelines. However, the story for the visual novel focuses on what appears to be the protagonist from Stay Night, and the story ‘encompasses the endings of all of the routes, while not being any of them.’ However, as there is an end to the story in the visual novel and following events; hence, it was stated that the novel continued out of the ending of a certain rate of Stay Night, but also stated that readers should not think too much about it. Being a visual novel with a similar format as the first novel, the presentation and experience of the player remained about the same in this sequel. Around that time, Stay Night was also adapted into a graphic novel (manga), and an animated television series (anime). These two adaptations, while having the liberty of being in a different format, suffered from the adaptation into a format restrained by time, and thus covered a slightly altered version of the story, with an amalgamation of events from all three routes, but ending with a single route. However, soon after, a prequel novel series, “Fate/Zero” was released, and was also later adapted into an anime.

51rc9jyoxal-_ac_ul320_sr226320_

Cover of a novel in the Fate/Zero series.

               “Fate/Zero” explored the many events that occurred ten years before the events of Stay Night, events which would eventually shape the circumstances surrounding Stay Night. Being written in a more expository format that detailed the previous Holy Grail war instead of focusing on a single character’s development, Zero followed a chronological set of events, swapping back and forth between different factions while establishing backstories for various characters. This was later easily adapted into an animated series, with the perspectives and orders of events already being set in paper, and being provided with an ample timeframe of episodes so that the plot could be properly told without being rushed. However, while Zero was adapted very well, a movie for the second route, “Fate/Stay Night: Unlimited Blade Works” was released, and as constrained by the movie format, was 105 minutes long, not ample enough to exposit the full contents of the route.

fate-zero-16-08maxresdefault

Comparison of Fate/Zero anime (above) and the Unlimited Blade Works movie (below).

               Due to this, ‘Unlimited Blade Works’ was re-adapted into a longer animated television series, much as Zero was. Given this ample timeframe, the route was adapted in a slower-paced way that allowed for proper exposition and depiction of the protagonist, crucial to its themes as a Bildungsroman. With proper character development and depiction of the struggles the protagonist faces, as well as with flashier battle sequences than the visual novel could hope to provide, the anime series was a fantastic adaptation of the source material that allowed one to enjoy the work regardless of experience with the series, but was altogether more enjoyable if one were familiar with the series, as with any other series continuity. A few years later, in 2017, a movie release of the first part of the third route, ‘Heaven’s Feel’ followed. Regarding the time constraints of the movie format, this route was split into a trilogy of movies. With this format, the movie sought to split the movie into three major parts of the character’s realizations to segue into another. Additionally, time is saved by the omission of heavy explanations of every detail, with certain parts that are expected to be known in the beginning are shown as a shot-by-shot exposition. The producers behind the movie stated that the wanted to have multiple levels of immersion with the movie: the movie would still be enjoyable if you were not familiar with the series, but the more depth and knowledge one had of the franchise would serve to increase the enjoyment of the movie, scene by scene, and detail by detail. By drawing on the rich history of source material, the allowances today’s technology makes, and expanding the time, it was possible to go from a movie that was commercial bust to one that was very lucrative and popular.

fate-stay-night-ubw-01-large-52fate-stay-night-heavens-feel-screen-3

Unlimited Blade Works anime (top) and Heaven’s Feel movie (bottom).

               Now, the biggest part of the franchise is one of the more recent releases in the franchise, the mobile game “Fate/Grand Order,” which was launched in 2015. Currently available in seven global markets, including Japan, China, the United States, and Korea, the game is responsible for repeatedly single-handedly bringing Sony Music’s profits record highs. Being free-to-play, but offering a higher chance at premium content by purchasing in-game currency with microtransactions, Grand Order is the top-grossing app on multiple app stores across platforms around the world. The game features a mixture of features: one can collect different ‘Servants’ from different times and places, including characters such as Arjuna from the Mahabharata and Thomas Edison from America, features stories with these ‘Servants’ in a visual novel format, with scrolling text, character sprites, music, and choices to be made, and also a ‘game’ portion where the player can use the servants they have collected to battle epic enemies and obtain materials required for progression through the game. By mixing content and features of different kinds of media, the Fate franchise has proved to be successful, making a lot money and capturing the hearts of many fans. This kind of innovation continues to this day, with an animated series, a Virtual Reality demo, and an Arcade game released related to the series, with more content to come. By expanding the horizons with different media with differing approaches depending on the medium, authors can use different techniques to delivery various types of stories to better effect.

screenshot-556

Screenshot of Grand Order

dvium6nx0aezsbl

Revenue Ranking of Grand Order

New Adventures in Old VR (And Vice Versa)

The Adventure Science Center, located about an eight-minute drive from Vanderbilt University’s campus in Nashville, Tennessee, is an incredibly fun place to explore, learn, and, in my case, work for. I was an exhibit attendant and front desk operator for ASC for quite some time, and in my tenure, I was able to witness first-hand the effects of new media and technology on kids’ education.

One of my jobs was to maintain and run the Blue Max Flight Simulator, which was a two-person pod capable of recreating the flips and turns of a digital roller coaster, or the flight of a fighter jet. The concept was not new- arcades and play places had similar devices in my childhood, but this was the first time I was technologically familiar with the ride. The roller coasters were more like incredibly active movies, in which the viewer watched a tightly shot screen of a digital roller coaster and the pod moved to simulate the drops and flips. The roller coasters were not the most realistic things in the world (we had ones where you rode over space, or through a volcano), but even the ones simulating a realistic experience still gave away their simulation through graphic composition, or through the incredibly loud Red Hot Chili Peppers mix blaring through the speakers.

The fighter jet was user-controlled, with joysticks located on the sides of each seat, and again, the graphics left a lot to be desired. But, the kid’s sense of realism was more than fulfilled by having the pod respond to their joystick movement, actually putting them into a dive or repetitive barrel rolls. Physical movement, it seemed, made up for the pixellated images.

I spent a lot of time watching the rides in the Blue Max bay on the screen on the control panel, listening to the shrieks and swears of passengers, and the weirdest thing happened: it started to get old. I was bored of the standard rides and loops, could repeat the theme music for each ride, and became more concerned with how long it took for patrons to empty their pockets. A child was sitting at the desk next to me playing with the flight simulator that was identical to the one in the pod, the joysticks and buttons controlling a wide array of turns and data. He had figured out, all on his own, how to work the joysticks, shoot, and switch camera angles. And he couldn’t have been more than seven years old.

The ASC recently added a VR center for kids ages 13 and up, and currently has a program designed to put the kid directly in the center of the process of building a skyscraper in downtown Nashville. The equipment was clunky and hard to work with, and more than once, we found minor inconveniences could shut down an entire station. No one wanted to work at the VR station. It was boring. All you did was watch people hooked into a complicated system raise and lower their hands and turn around in a blank, empty space. But in the players’ eyes, they were lifting cross beams, choosing window styles, and directing cranes.

It is a strange feeling to work with VR, to see the detached human side of the virtual playground, and it is easy to get bored with it, like it is with any job. But, looking back, the extent to which VR incorporated itself as a normal part of our lives and work environment was disconcertingly quick (the new exhibit was installed in a month, we were trained for a week, and then it went live). It raises a lot of questions for me about the future of this sort of technology, and the ease with which we adapt to it. Where do we go from here?

Immersion across media

SPOILER ALERT: Minor House of Cards and Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Spoilers Ahead

Immersion is that ever sought-after quality, the perpetual goal of any aspiring creator. Individual investment is a crucial component of any successful piece of media. Paintings evoke more emotion when the observer can project some aspect of his identity into the artwork. Nature documentaries are all the more fascinating when the videographer gets up close and personal with the subject(s) of the documentary, be it through swimming amidst humpback whales or trekking through the African safari in pursuit of a leopard. When an audience is absorbed in something, they generate more buzz, buy more merchandise, and become emotionally attached. All of these are within the creators’ best interests, thus this post aims to explore how just a few creators have tailored their product to best allow for audience immersion and investment.

Specifically focusing on storytelling media, immersion manifests itself in various ways. The television show “House of Cards” immerses viewers in a rather unique fashion. Most of the show focuses on the machinations of Frank Underwood, a ruthless politician who rises to power in the US Government by systematically eliminating any who stand in his way. Occasionally, Frank turns to the camera and speaks directly to us, the viewers, proclaiming his ruthless motivations and Machiavellian intentions.

giphy1
“There are two types of vice presidents: doormats and matadors. Which do you think I am?” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a5Ha3IWeXOo

Some might argue that this detracts from immersion. After all, these short asides draw attention away from the issue at hand and expect a sort of suspension of disbelief from the viewer that these statements don’t actually occur in reality, but in a sort of parallel situation to the events of the show. I would argue the opposite, however. Sometimes Frank’s motivations remain unclear to even the most astute viewers of the show. By inserting these short windows into Frank’s psyche, the director forges a seemingly intimate connection between the audience and Frank Underwood. Despite going against the grain and defying the norms of immersion by breaking the fourth wall, House of Cards presents a commendable example of how to effectively immerse a viewer using unconventional means.

Moving into the medium of gaming, immersion can present itself via multiple avenues. One route is through the implementation of nuanced consequences for the actions of the player. This route is exemplified in the video game “The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.” The player has the option of adopting children from an orphanage. This in and of itself is a rather unique choice presented to the player, but the game goes further and introduces the player to Sissel, a young girl who is relentlessly abused by her father and bullied by her twin sister.

Sissel
The face of a child who needs to be saved. – http://elderscrolls.wikia.com/wiki/Sissel

This makeshift Cinderella story certainly tugs at the player’s heartstrings, and it would be remiss if the player were to witness this situation but be powerless to do anything about it. Luckily, the player does have power. One can secretly murder her father, thereby placing her in an orphanage provided the killing is done in secret. She can then be adopted as the player’s daughter at a later date, effectively liberating her from her hellish home life. On a moral level, this action can be questionable, but the fact that the player is even allowed to do this in the first place represents an overcoming of a traditional barrier of video gaming: the player’s “sphere of action.” This hypothetical sphere not only represents the actions a player can carry out within a certain game, but also represents the observed effects of those actions in the game world. For some games, the sphere only extends to the onscreen death of an enemy, and nothing more. Skyrim’s sphere, as evidenced by the Sissel side story, is far-reaching and expansive. The larger this sphere is, the greater influence the player has on the world, and the greater degree to which the gamer is immersed in the world.

Another method to increase immersion is through the controls themselves. How a developer chooses the player’s control over the game has massive implications for the player’s experience of the game. One primary example of this phenomenon can be seen in “The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.” In this game, there are two movement modes for controlling one’s character: a default mode and an alternative mode. Both modes are generally identical, with a couple of exceptions.

giphy (1)

giphy
Notice the differences in movement. – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7XGIiGmr74Q

In the standard example, the character has weight to his movements. He obeys physical laws to a greater extent and can’t simply snap out of a deep lunge immediately. On the other hand, the alternative mode features much lighter movements, and the character fluidly frolics about with ease. The standard mode is more “realistic,” and thus feels more natural in a strictly objective sense. However, the alternative mode eliminates the clunkiness of the standard mode and makes the character much, much more responsive to the player’s input: commanding the character to move right will move him right instantly in the alternative control scheme, as opposing to waiting for him to stop his current movement then moving him as in the standard control scheme.

So which one is more immersive? The standard scheme can be construed as more lifelike, forcing the player to carefully decide how he or she will move the character so as not to waste time and lose potential battles by making unnecessary movements. However, the alternative scheme is more fluid, enabling the player to undergo a smoother and less frustrating experience. Neither answer is 100% correct, as this matter is often left up to personal preference. Nonetheless, Witcher 3 presents a fantastic example of how the controls of a video game can contribute to immersion in various ways.

There are countless other ways in which creators invite audience immersion, and this post explored only a few. As technology and audiences progress, creators continually search for more avenues through which they can entice audiences to invest themselves in their creations. There is no one best way to ensure a captive audience, but it certainly presents an exciting lens through which to view a work of art.

  • Sunny Chennupati

The Fellowship’s Early Chapters

In contemporary fantasy and science fiction writing, it is ubiquitous to employ literary techniques that enable authors to weave webs of mystery and intrigue that are only unravelled and explained through the course of their stories. Examples include beginning tales in media res, depicting magic powers and special abilities that are only understood through further reading and exposure to their intricacies, and even utilizing completely separate storylines that only intersect and complement each other after much of the story is complete. In a recent TED talk, JJ Abrams, a revered director and producer of many beloved films and TV shows, explained his love for the unseen and his passion for stories that leave elements of their worlds up to the imagination and to the progression of the story. The narratives he portrays on screen often reflect this concept. (Honestly, can anyone make sense of the end of the LOST series?) Tolkien’s early chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring, however, directly contradict what Abrams elucidates as the goal of a successful storyteller. Tolkien instead begins by extensively explaining the customs, cultures and relationships of many of the races and individuals in his novel, leaving little to mystery. We are left to wonder, why did Tolkien shape the inception of Frodo and his companions’ adventure as he did? And what effect did this have on “world building” and the narrative as a whole?

In many ways, The Fellowship of the Ring was the first book of its kind in terms of creating a fantastical world in the form of Middle Earth. Not even Tolkien’s previous fantasy novel, The Hobbit, contained the depth of exhaustive detail found within its sequel. The tone used by Tolkien in the prologue and early chapters of The Fellowship serves to slowly immerse the reader into his world and grants the story the aura of actual history. Hobbits don’t differ significantly from humans (except for their feet and small stature). The parallels with real humans are important in terms of the shared doubt of the degree of danger and magic outside the Shire, and in relating to the book’s protagonist. In that vein, Tolkien’s goal in the early chapters of The Fellowship is to establish The Shire as a sort of safe, provincial environment that provides a nursery for both Frodo’s characterization as well as the reader’s foray into Middle Earth. Eventually, both Frodo and the reader grow tired of the hobbits and the smothering shelter of The Shire, especially as danger approaches. It’s only at this point that Tolkien allows the narrative to progress, and Frodo to move forward with Gandalf’s instructions. By then he has created a link between Frodo and the reader as well as explained as much as possible without the characters even having set foot outside of the Shire. Tolkien also employs songs, and the expansive knowledge of Gandalf to add further context for a gripping, enticing and incredibly detailed world. The contrast between the Shire (as well as the relative safety of discussing magic and monsters through the confines of song ) and the dangerous road is imperative to the conflict and tension building in the narrative. However, even on the road, Tolkien does not resort to mystery. There is a clear distinction between good (the hobbits) and evil (the riders and the enemy). Also, the symbolism is obvious and the hobbits have a clear goal (to reach Bree). Rather than harming the narrative, as some would suggest, this allows the reader to more closely analyze more pressing questions, such as why the ring corrupts, where the dwarves have gone, and why the elves are leaving Middle Earth, and, therefore, become more greatly immersed in the world as a whole.

Tolkien’s tone, as well as his intended themes are also overt. He strives to evoke certain emotions in order to steer his narrative and contribute to world building. In these early chapters, he creates a tone of elegy and lament for a lost past with the introduction of Tom Bombadil and his reluctance to fight Sauron, the departing elves, and the rise of evil. Tolkien also introduces the idea of the corrupting influence of power through the one ring and makes allusions to Christianity through references to temptation, and the selflessness and purity of the hobbits and their motivations. This type of storytelling is entirely intentional and serves to steer the narrative in a direction that is distinct from most modern writing. Tolkien’s goals are to immerse the reader, evoke a tone of regret and longing for a distant past, and connect the reader to the protagonist. He also strives to force the reader to make connections and ask questions beyond attempts to decipher what could have been a complicated and overly stimulating world if Tolkien had employed a more modern concept of storytelling.

A Non-Gamer’s Review of The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

How I felt watching The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters…

GIPHY (1)

As a non-gaming woman in her mid twenties, the extent of my gaming knowledge amounts to Crash Bandicoot and Guitar Hero between 2006-2009. I remember coming home from middle school and destroying my brother in 2 player mode on Crash and killing expert mode of Love is a Battlefield and feeling like Pat Benatar.

 

So, given how inexperienced I am with the intricacies of the gaming world, I must admit that I was incredibly skeptical as I waited for the 2007 gaming documentary, The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, to download from Amazon. On a seemingly insignificant Monday evening, I situated myself on the couch with my little sister and my girlfriend (fellow non-gamers) expecting a snooze fest, but we were sorely mistaken!

The next 79 minutes of our lives were filled with so many feels… Shock! Happiness! Sadness! Disgust! Confusion! Anger!

Every feel culminating into pure entertainment.

GIPHY-7.gif

In a nutshell, Billy Mitchell, the reigning champion of Donkey Kong, meets his match in Steve Wiebe, a middle school science teacher who wipes butts in the face of distress.

Steve submits a video of him surpassing Mitchell’s world record. The weasels of Twin Galaxy abuse their trivial power in the gaming world and undermine Wiebe’s talent by considering his video unacceptable for ranking.

GIPHY-3.gif

But good ultimately prevails, and Wiebe proves his superiority live and in person at the Fun Center in Iowa; beating Mitchell’s score for a 2nd time!

Mitchell then submits a heavily (and obviously) edited video showing him surpass the million mark, and Twin Galaxies abuse their trivial power (yet again) to place Mitchell back on top of the Donkey Kong high school chart.


 

I could’ve stopped the documentary at this point (and would recommend one does); what more proof does one need to prove that Bill and the Twin Galaxies crew are snakes?! Wiebe beat Mitchell – not once – but twice?!

Sadly, the documentary loses its momentum…the remainder of the film deals with the 2007 Guinness World Record gaming competition where, one would assume the final public face off between Mitchell and Wiebe would eventually go down…

But, just like Brian Kuh’s love life (#SorryNotSorry), the audience was let down.

download-5.jpg

The documentary ends with Wiebe showing up to the competition and Mitchell slithering away from an unadulterated face off, resulting in Mitchell holding his high score until 2010, when Wiebe finally claims what was rightfully his!

download-1

Life lesson from my first experience viewing a gaming documentary:

Regardless of the simulations and artificial reality these gamers play in, real emotions transcend virtual lines. The highs and lows witnessed during the documentary were genuine and affected 3 viewers who shared very little relatable experiences with Billy and Steve.

So, bravo to Seth Gordon, who constructed an authentic, albeit niche, adventure through the trenches of genuine human emotion that can be related to by all.

GIPHY-1

xo, J

Tell me a story

What do you value over everything else when it comes to video games? For me it’s story, every time.  I don’t care if it’s an old game or if the graphics are just bad, or if the gameplay is a little clunky, or if it’s too long or short of a game.  If it has an original and/or compelling story, there’s a good chance I’ll like it quite a bit.

Recently I’ve been quite into the fantasy/dark fantasy genre, specifically Dark Souls.  Through my experiences with the Souls series, I’ve realized that it’s not only the content of the story that I enjoy, but how it is told and presented to the player.  In many games, the story is basically told to you straightforward, without making the player do a whole lot of work to discover the story.  There may be puzzles or little notes that you find to delve deeper into the story, but it is rare to find a game that just says “Go.”  That’s essentially what the Dark Souls series does to the player.  You begin the first game with a cutscene that means  quite a lot if you are familiar with the series’ lore already, but is quite overwhelming to the novice player. The player is then given a simple instruction to ring two bells and then gets tossed in the (kinda) right direction.  Now this might just seem like a bad game and, based on the evidence I’ve given, that wouldn’t be a terrible first impression.  I promise that’s not the case.

Dark Souls found a way to have a vastly complex world and lore, with interesting characters and history; and the game doesn’t hand any of that information to you.  You have to go out and throw yourself at seemingly impossible levels until you master them or quit.  And bit by bit, the more you explore and the more characters you meet, the more of the story you uncover.  FromSoftware took a gamble with this style of storytelling (which they started with in Demon’s Souls, the spiritual predecessor to Dark Souls).  If you put in the work to find the story and learn what all is going on, Dark Souls will be one of the most satisfying gaming experiences you have.  Because it’s not just about what the story is, it;s about how you tell it.