The Choices We Make

A thought occurred to me while I was working on my third playthrough of Dragon Age: Origins: how player choice can present itself differently across different games. Now I know this has been a long discussed topic, particularly when people feel that in so many games that their choices don’t matter, but I wanted to discuss how I most enjoy player decisions when they’re available.

This particular DA:O playthrough was my first time trying a new character (new origin, new look, new personality, new love interest, the whole bit), and as I progressed through the game, I realized that a lot of my significant plot point choices were very similar to my “canon” playthrough’s choices. I didn’t intend it to be that way, since I usually like to play around with new choices, but I also realized that several of the choices in DA:O have very clear indicators for what are the “right” and “wrong” choices. Not for everything (some decisions have more ambiguous consequences), but when it comes to recruiting allies for the final fight against the Archdemon, certain decisions could wind up costing you companions as well as certain allies. Alternatively, Dragon Age II and Dragon Age: Inquisition had a number of quests that relied on the player’s perception of the situation (sometimes with the intent of questioning morality) and it felt more catered to whatever personality you gave your protagonist. (Side note: personally, I don’t think DAII is as morally grey as it likes to think it is, but there were more opportunities to incorporate your decisions into defining your protagonist’s characterization.) The Dragon Age series’ choices are not perfect, but there is more room in the later games for varying personalities and characterizations than just “I’m being a horrible person just because I can.”

The point is: I feel that player choices work better when there’s an ambiguity to their result. I want to be sitting there wondering “did I make the best choice?” rather than just working down a “good” or an “evil” path. And when I make that choice, I don’t want only immediate results, I want that choice to affect me 10, 20, 30 hours later too… or even in the next game. I could not tell you how glad I was to have dodged a bullet in DA:I when I realized that making Alistair king two games ago might have just saved his life (and kept my Warden from a broken heart). I want more games to give me that sort of stress: make me feel the consequences of my actions even long after my decision has been made.

Games have the very unique ability to travel down different plot pathways, a reminder of the old “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, and when done well, I think it’s a very fun mechanic for the player to mess around with. It drives replayability by having the player wonder “what if I had done this instead?”, it encourages communication between players (for better or worse) on how they handled different decisions, and it has the ability to characterize the audience/player. One of the things I love knowing about my friends who have played the same game as me is how they decided to play the game. Did we make similar choices? Were different choices made based on what kind of personality they gave their character? What choices do they gravitate to naturally and what are they breaking away from to play their protagonist “in character?” I’m certain developers love hearing these sorts of responses as well. It’s a feature I love about finishing episodes in Telltale Games: polls will indicate how many made certain decisions and if you were in the majority or minority.

Telltale Games, in fact, is a company that has built an entire brand identity on the concept of branching storylines, with the mechanics and episodic set-up laying the groundwork for a lot of possibilities. I am particularly enjoying some of the new features added in the latest Batman: The Enemy Within, which include shifting attitudes towards Batman based on how you treat each of these characters in dialogue options. This expounds upon Telltales’ previous MO of “_____ will remember this” and creates the sensation of more tangible consequences and repercussions, whereas before it sometimes felt as if that statement didn’t have an explicit consequence. I understand that sometimes Telltales’ games have to override decisions for the sake of keeping a somewhat linear storyline, but one day, I would like to see them create completely separate scenarios and situations based on the decisions made by the player. It doesn’t have to be the whole game (that’s definitely a lot of work), but it would be interesting that for an episode, there could be two different versions with completely different scenarios and decisions. Then make it tie back into the story later, once the storylines have converged again: how will the protagonist react to a later situation based on what they experienced in one episode vs a protagonist who witnessed the other version?

The Dragon Age series and Telltale Games’ series are obviously not the only games that have a strong focus on player choice. Pyre is another game that focuses on decision-making, albeit a bit in a more subtle way. I mentioned in its original review post that there is no “True Ending” for Pyre, and you are forced into uncomfortable decisions in the realization that you won’t get absolutely everything “right.” Since there isn’t a right or wrong answer to the choices, players are given full responsibility for their actions in a way that adds pressure to the decision. Life is Strange starts off strong with their choices affecting characters and the player in later episodes. For example, being nice to one of the characters in the first episode will make them more receptive your cautions as opposed to suspicious in the later episodes. There are also many things to interact with that will show up in small ways later, such as under-watering or over-watering your plant. However, in the ending of the game, the ending itself is only based on a final choice, which just about ignores every decision you’ve made up until that point. It was possibly one of the most frustrating things to find that at the end of a very detailed game, none of your decisions had an effect on the ending.

Personally, I love decision-based games that give me a certain freedom to play how I want, and you can tell when the writers of these games took the time to consider the different options a player might want to take. Given that decision-based games continue to be a popular trend, I think writers should continue to examine how they go about writing these forks in the road. My personal favorite approach is the “you’ve made your bed, now lie in it” approach, making the player wonder if they’ve made the “best” choice and making them feel the effects even long after those scenes have passed. I’m curious to hear your thoughts: how do you think player choices should be handled? What games do you think use this concept well? How do you think some of these mechanics could be improved?

Happy gaming!

~ M

SDCC 2017!

Wow, what a weekend! I’m still trying to process the whole thing, especially since it was four straight days of convention goodness, but I’ll try to summarize it all as best as I can.

I haven’t been to San Diego Comic Con since 2011(?), so a lot has changed since then. I considered that year to be riiiiight before it started getting ridiculously big. I mean, SDCC was still big then, but it wasn’t at the level it is today. This was also the first time I was going all four days; last time (which was my only time at SDCC), I went only Thursday and Saturday, so I didn’t get to experience the different activities and the different crowds that characterize each day.

I’ll start off by saying I had an incredible amount of fun at this convention. I got to see several really interesting panels relevant to this blog (and meet important people in the industry), I got to cosplay as a couple very recognizable characters, and I even got to meet several of my favorite voice actors in person! I really don’t think I could have asked for more, and the best part was going with a great group of friends.

Now, if you’ve ever been to SDCC, you know that it is impossible to see everything, especially when it comes to very popular movie/show trailer reveals. I’m still catching up on trailers, in fact, and I’m really just here to fill you in on what I saw during each of the days, so let’s get started!

Day 1, Thursday:

This day and Friday I went as D.Va from Overwatch in her Cruiser skin. My friends were still finishing up their Overwatch cosplays, so we would be going as a big group the next day. This was actually the first time going in a cosplay so recognizable that I was stopped for pictures, so that was really cool. My goals for this day were simple: attend both panels focusing on storytelling in video games. The first panel, entitled “Creating Immersive Game Story” had George Krstic (Blizzard), Leah Hoyer (Telltale Games), and Guillaume Colombo (Bungie) discussing the ways in which writers think about creating video game stories, what makes a good story, and how writing for a video game is a very different experience from writing for other mediums. I had the chance afterwards to speak with Leah Hoyer, Eric Stirpe (also from Telltale Games), Scott Hawkes (from Riot Games), and Jason Hill (also from Blizzard), and I asked them how they would approach encouraging someone who had never played video games to play a video game. Each of them gave me very different answers, but interesting in their own way. It became a discussion on how video games calls for immersive participation in a story and how different mechanics might appeal to different people, depending on their genre preferences.

The second panel I attended was “Writing for the Computer Gaming Industry,” featuring speakers: Neal Hallford (Lily Bard Online), Neil Druckmann (Uncharted 4), Anne Toole (Horizon Zero Dawn), John Zuur Platten (Ingress), and Kimberly Unger (Dexter: Slice), and moderated by Jana Hallford (Swords & Circuitry: A Designer’s Guide to Computer Role-Playing Games). Much of this panel focused on the mechanics of writing for video games, such as thinking through player logic rather than being very concrete in your story’s content (as players, we all know that we don’t always want to do what the game tells us to) and the ever evolving nature of video games (indie games in particular adding new and different kinds of mechanics).

By the end of this panel, the floor was closing, so it was time to call it a night (for me anyway, my friends still had cosplay work to do).

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Day 2, Friday:

Friday very quickly was a different animal from Thursday. This was the day we were going as a cosplay Overwatch group, which automatically means you’re going to get stopped for photos…a lot. And it was fun! Like really fun! I especially got to meet a lot of really cool people this way, either fellow Overwatch cosplayers or attendees. We did manage to get to a number of places before eventually making it to our meet-up in the afternoon, and who should be there but Reinhardt’s voice actor, the wonderful Darin De Paul. He was great to speak with, whether it was discussing how great the community has been or taking the time to sign notebooks and cosplay weapons and take photos. He stayed for the majority of the gathering until he had to go to his panel, but throughout, he gave his full attention to anyone who asked to speak with him.

After our group got our own photos of our cosplays, we eventually started making our (long) way to dinner. Now, I think any of us would have been satisfied with just running into Darin De Paul that day, but it appeared that the day was not yet over for meeting voice actors. In a situation that can only be described as “pure chance” and “is this seriously happening?”, our group ran into the entire Critical Role voice actor cast at dinner. With more situational ridiculousness still, the table was in direct line of sight of us as we kept getting stopped in front of the restaurant for photos. Naturally, they noticed us and waved and would occasionally keep looking over at us. Whenever we were able to sit down at a table, the cast was leaving their own dinner (yes, the wait time was that long that night) and Matthew Mercer and Taliesin Jaffe were kind enough to walk over to us and tell us that we looked great in our cosplays. We were able to get some photos with them, and I’ll tell you that even though I experienced it, it still feels incredible that it happened.

Day 3, Saturday:

Saturday played out a little differently than Friday since it was a lot more crowded that day. I decided to cosplay as Makoto Niijima from Persona 5, and my friends went again as the Overwatch team. We started the morning early this time, since a few of us wanted to go to the Critical Role panel (which was a lot of fun btw). Something I thought was hilarious was that since the Persona 5 cosplayers were so rare at SDCC, every time we found one another, it was this moment of “OMG!! You!!” My friends got a lot of awesome pictures taken of them throughout the day, and this day was especially great for meeting new people! Ended the day at a fast food restaurant, which is currently one of my favorite ways to have dinner at the end of a con day (aside from running into voice actors accidentally).

Day 4, Sunday:

Sunday was very chill since most of us went in casual or casual cosplay and spent the day walking the main floor. It was also a shopping day, and by the end of the day I was able to pick up a Bulbasaur plushie (something I’ve wanted for a long time) and the Deluxe Edition of the Dragon Age comics!

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By the end of SDCC, I was exhausted but I had a really fantastic time! It managed to surpass my expectations in the most awesome ways, and I loved experiencing the whole thing with a great group of friends!

A big thank you to @that_one_cosplayer76 for making my D.Va pistol!

If you want to see more photos from the conference, I’ve opened up an Instagram @thegamersjourney, so feel free to follow me there! (I’ll still be uploading photos) You can also find photos on our group’s Instagram @sdcosplaysquad!

Finally, if you’re curious about what I’m up to in terms of gaming when I’m not posting on here, I highly suggest you also follow some of my social media, especially if you want updates on when my posts are going up, see what I’m playing now, and just funny (well I think it’s funny) gaming commentary.

Twitter: @gamers_journey

Tumblr: thegamersjourney

Instagram: @thegamersjourney

Happy gaming!

~ M

E3 Impressions

I’ve been watching the E3 press conferences for the past couple of years, but I think this is the first time I actually sat through all of them (minus Bethesda’s because it was at a really late hour for me, sorry, Bethesda!). And compared to last year, I found many of the conferences to be…lacking. There were plenty of games to be discussed, that’s for certain, but I felt like there weren’t as many new game announcements like in years past. Many of the games brought up last week were games that had already been announced, and maybe it’s just me, who prefers to see new game announcements, but I just couldn’t seem to get that excited about the whole thing. This isn’t to take away from people who did enjoy this year’s E3, because I know there are a number of people who walked away hearing of new titles they had been waiting years for. This all being said, I did want to bring up some of the titles that I thought were interesting and I’m looking forward to hearing more about.

Without further ado, my highlights!

1. A Way Out (EA)

Every once in a while I see a game where I go “yes, this is exactly the type of game that is perfect for the point of my blog!” From the creators of Brothers- A Tale of Two Sons, A Way Out is the story of two prison inmates trying to escape from prison. The player, or rather, two players each control one of the inmates in split-screen, cooperatively working to navigate through the narrative simultaneously. I don’t know how much the plot itself interests me, but I am definitely intrigued by the unique game mechanic used to tell this story.

A Way Out E3 Trailer

2. Dishonored: Death of the Outsider (Bethesda)

I’ll tell you one thing: I was not expecting to hear anything Dishonored related this year, so this was a very pleasant surprise to wake up to. I still haven’t figured out if Death of the Outsider is DLC or if it’s a stand-alone game, but I already love the idea of playing from Billie Lurk’s perspective. This now means that I need to go through all the Dishonored and Dishonored 2 DLC before it comes out!

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider E3 Trailer

3. Hidden Agenda (Sony)

This is another game where I said “Oooooooh, I really like this mechanic.” By the same group as Until Dawn, Hidden Agenda is a game where you are trying to find the serial killer and you and a group of friends collectively make decisions to affect outcomes in the story. It sounds like there were will be more subtle mechanics also in play and it looks like it could be a lot of fun for a game night with friends.

Hidden Agenda E3 Reveal

4. Unnamed Pokemon Game for the Nintendo Switch (Nintendo)

I cannot tell you how long I’ve waited for a main Pokemon game to be on a console. Okay, technically it can still be on a handheld, but I’ve always wondered how Pokemon would look if brought to a console. It’ll be interesting to see if the set-up changes at all or if they plan on keeping the same format. The only thing said during Nintendo’s presentation was that the game is in development, but that’s all it took for me to be intrigued.

Pokemon Switch Announcement

5. Tunic (PC)

I know literally nothing about this game other than it follows an adorable little fox on an RPG adventure and it looks precious. I’m curious to know what the story is and how the world works in the game, so I’ll be keeping my eye on this one.

Tunic E3 Trailer

Other Thoughts:

There were two other games discussed at E3 with titles and developers I’m familiar with, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on those titles here.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm (announced during Microsoft’s conference)

I watched my sister play the first Life is Strange and I really enjoyed a lot of the game, except for the ending. That being said, I thought that story was pretty complete, so when I heard that the developers were making a sequel, I did not expect for us to go back to the same characters. I don’t know how I feel about there being a prequel coming out, since I was pretty sure we had a full picture of what happened with Chloe and Rachel before Max arrived. I was honestly hoping for a different story and maybe the same rewind mechanic, so I have mixed feelings about this announcement.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm Announcement Trailer

Anthem (EA)

BioWare’s new IP had gotten some buzz before E3, so I already knew about some of the details of the game before going into this conference. While I really like some of BioWare’s titles and this game does look very nice, I’m still getting used to the MMO style of gaming. I’ll be curious to see more details about this game and see how it stands out from the other games doing similar things.

Anthem Reveal Trailer

Overall, these were the titles that stood out to me the most. Some sequels for very popular games were announced as well and while they’re not on this list, I want to do some research on them to get a better idea of what the hype is about.

Did you see any of the conferences, and if so, which ones? Which titles are you most excited for? What were you hoping to see at E3 this year but didn’t? And is there anything not on this list that you recommend I take a second look at?

Happy gaming!

~ M

Mystery Blogger Award: Acceptance Speech!

During the last month, I had the honor of being nominated for the “Mystery Blogger Award” by both Robert Ian Shepherd of Adventure Rules and herrdelta of Split Screens!

Robert’s blog, Adventure Rules, discusses everything gaming, including reviews, impressions, and he answers a bunch of fun questions about his gaming experience!

herrdelta’s blog, Split Screens, features a great mix of reviews and news on games, tv shows, and movies!

I want to take a moment to thank you both for nominating me! It’s been great meeting you, and I hope we can continue sharing opinions on gaming.

Without further ado, let us begin the post!

The Rules

– Put the award logo/image on your blog

– List the rules

– Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog

– Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well

– Tell your readers 3 things about yourself

– You nominate 10-20 people (I’ll only be doing 5)

– Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog

– Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)

– Share a link to your best post(s)

Background of the Award

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Okoto Enigma is the creator of the Mystery Blogger Award. It was made as a way for undiscovered bloggers to be recognized and to create a greater community for bloggers to connect with each other. You can find the full description of the post here.

A quote from the official post: “Mystery Blogger Award”  is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.”

3 Things about Myself

1. My official undergraduate degree states that I studied English, but I was also a pre-med! Which means I’ll be forever confusing everyone when it comes to explaining what I studied in college. Originally, I intended to go to med school, but I ultimately decided to follow my heart and pursue writing. I feel really comfortable jumping between writing and science, however, and it’s probably why I get really excited about stories that examine science and science ethics.

2. I used to draw a lot as a kid and in recent years, I’ve picked it up again. I’ve been thinking about starting a series on here where I draw fan art from games I’ve played.

3. One of my favorite things about writing is coming up with original characters, whether it be in a character creation setting or just in my own writing. I love figuring out who they are, making headcanons, and just generally figuring out how they fit into the universe.

The Answers to the Questions

(Okay, usually it’s only 5 questions, but since I’m answering both Robert’s and herrdelta’s questions, it’s going to be a little longer….)

Robert Ian Shepherd’s Questions

1. What made you decide to take up blogging?

For the past couple of years, I’ve gotten into gaming in a way that was very different from my childhood. I was playing a lot of games that had deep stories and characters that I just wanted to talk to everyone about. I also wanted to start exploring more games so I wasn’t just replaying the same handful all the time. As a result, this blog was born!

2. What’s your favorite video game?

I have a hard time choosing just one game, but I split my favorites between the Dragon Age series, the Fire Emblem series, and the Persona series. Dragon Age and Fire Emblem feed directly into my love of medieval fantasy, and Persona games are fun modern day supernatural stories that have this really cathartic feel to them.

Since I’ve started this blog, I think Transistor will now also have to be added to the list too….

3. Why should people read your blog?

I think I bring a different kind of gaming review to the community. It’s more focused on the narrative aspect of the game itself and how well the developers use a video game medium to tell their story better than any tv show, book, or movie could. It’s also the kind of thing that I’d like to see people’s opinions on; agree or disagree, I want to know what they also got out of the game’s experience.

4. What video game item do you wish you had in real life?

The timepiece from Dishonored 2. Imagine going to historical sites with that!

5. If you could set up two characters from different games on a blind date, who would you put together?

Oh, hmmmmm, I’m having a lot of trouble deciding which characters would be good to pair up, mostly because I usually already ship them with someone else in their own respective games. That being said, I would love to see D.Va from Overwatch and Futaba Sakura from Persona 5 meet. They could talk about video games and computers and it’d be great.

herrdelta’s Questions

1. Who is your biggest video game crush and why?

Without hesitation: Alistair Theirin from the Dragon Age series. He’s a lovable sweetheart, and I loved his sense of humor. And as cheesy as it was, I was a sucker for that rose moment with the Warden.

2. If you could pick one game to be remastered, what would it be?

POKEMON SNAP. Without question. But I want all the new Pokemon in it, too. Nintendo, please make this happen for the Switch, I beg of you. It would be an automatic system seller for me.

3. What got you into playing video games?

As a child, I loved the new kinds of challenges video games presented and how each game brought something different to the table. As I grew older, my love of the stories was what turned me into the gamer I am today.

4. Outside of gaming, what is your favorite fandom or franchise (be it a comic, film, tv show, etc)?

I think the Harry Potter fandom will always be near and dear to my heart. I met a lot of wonderful people during my days there and I just remember the whole experience as being a lot of fun.

5. Is there any particular scene in a video game that you really wish you could rewrite? If so, how would you rewrite it?

Interesting question! As much as I love Dishonored, I hated the Non-lethal Option for “Lady Boyle’s Last Party.” Surely there were better ways to “Neutralize” Lady Boyle than shipping her off with the guy who was obsessed with her…. If I were to rewrite it, I would have focused a lot more on the fact that she was also the Lord Regent’s financier and not just his mistress. To Neutralize her, she would have been disgraced among her circles, so much so that she could no longer be trusted to be even near the Lord Regent and therefore cutting off his finances. That, or find a way to completely the deplete the family of their fortune, also cutting off the Lord Regent’s income.

And the Nominees are…

Michelle Anneliese, A Geek Girl’s Guide: Renowned Explorers: International Society Review

I really like Michelle’s reviews on games because she usually talks about different games I’ve never heard of before. It’s no different with Renowned Explorers: International Society, where she discusses the game’s unique “combat” mechanics and how quick and repayable the game is with the different ways players can approach the game. I haven’t played it yet, but she definitely made me want to check it out!

IamRhinos, IamRhinos: The Importance of Timing the Games You Play

I’ve often felt that after I’ve really enjoyed a game, I need to give myself a break before changing gears to another game, so I can give that new game the enjoyment and focus it deserves. IamRhinos writes a great article on this exact topic, acknowledging the fact that sometimes you need to play a game at the right time to fully appreciate it.

Hope Eliza, Nerd Out Word Out/Hope Eliza Blogs: Review- Little Nightmares

While I usually try to stay away from horror games, Hope Eliza does a fun review on the game Little Nightmares and explains that while she also stays away from horror, she couldn’t help but enjoy this spooky adventure. Her review does a good job explaining the style and all the elemental details that make this game interesting. I’ll have to be sure to add this game to my list!

M Weaver, Objection! Network: Night in the Woods Hits Too Close to Home, Wrecks Young Adults Everywhere

I have heard some truly excellent things about Night in the Woods, and M Weaver gives a wonderful overview of the game. Most compelling about the review is the discussion of what themes are made prevalent throughout with the heavy concentration on characters. I’m looking forward to trying this game out for myself!

Jon Wisniewski, The Legend of Pixels: Life is Strange Season 2: Thoughts and Speculations

Jon describes my exact thoughts when it comes to predicting what we will see in Life is Strange 2. With the first game having such self-contained elements to it, it seems highly likely that we will be seeing many new features in the sequel. I recommend checking out his post on the matter!

My Questions for You

1. What’s the funniest video game in-game moment you’ve had?

2. Con season is coming up (is here?), so have you ever been to a comic book/video game/etc convention? If so, which as been your favorite? If not, which one would you want to go to?

3. Favorite video game of 2017 so far? (Either that came out in 2017 or that you’ve played in 2017)

4. What video game have you replayed the most/have the most hours clocked into?

5. (Weird Question) You wake up to find that you are in your favorite video game universe. Which game is it and what is your first course of action?

My Best Post

So I don’t really have a lot to choose from, ha ha.

I’m quite proud of my first Dishonored post and my Dex post. With Dishonored, it was fun going through the different definitions of “dishonored” and seeing how they applied to the story as a whole. As for Dex, the game had an interesting method of handling dystopian/sci-fi themes in a way that was fascinating to explore in my first official post.

In closing up this very long post, I’d like to thank Robert and herrdelta again for nominating me for this award! It’s been really great meeting everyone so far in this blogging community and I’m looking forward to what new games and ideas may come in the future.

As for the nominees, I’ve greatly enjoyed reading your posts and I hope this nomination brings more people to your blogs!

Happy gaming!

~ M

A Dilemma with DLC

The following post contains spoilers for Dragon Age: Inquisition’s Trespasser DLC and Fire Emblem: FatesHidden Truths DLC.

Let me make something clear right off of the bat: I am not here to hate on DLC, my qualm is the format in which story-vital information is being sold separately to the audience.

I’ve got two case studies for this post: Dragon Age and Fire Emblem: Fates. Oh, boy, two of my favorite game series, we’re going in.

If you’ve played some of BioWare’s biggest games, you probably already know there is a lot of outside content. Books, comic books, DLC, and animes? For the most part, these are just ways to enhance the story. It’s something I love about playing BioWare games: the world they’ve created is so rich that they have this ability to expand the story in areas that aren’t directly connected to the main games. There might be the odd Easter Egg here and there as a playful mention to those who have consumed this other media, and for a long time that’s what outside media was: story enrichment. However, recently there has been an increasing trend of putting story vital information in these outside sources.

Just take a look at the Wicked Eyes and Wicked Hearts quest in Dragon Age: Inquisition. The whole mission was one big reference to The Masked Empire book, and if you didn’t read it, then you were only able to get part of the full story. (My elven Inquisitor certainly would have wanted to know more about the burning of the Halamshiral elven alienage….) Dragon Age: Inquisition had a lot of these outside sources tie into main story missions within the game. So much so, in fact, that the main villain in the game first appears in a Dragon Age II DLC. (I had about 20 question marks over my head when Hawke talked about fighting Corypheus before, that was before I found out there was a DLC for DA2.) It’s a trend that’s growing increasingly popular: pay for DLC or wind up moderately confused for the overarching story.

Dragon Age™: Inquisition_20170326150849

Fire Emblem: Fates does something similar. Now, Fates is a special case because of its three-path story. I see the three-path storyline as an experiment, but probably one Intelligent Systems shouldn’t try again unless they really want to annoy their fanbase by forcing them to buy three games again. (That being said, the total price for these three paths was $80, $80 for what can be considered three full games. Not totally a bad deal.) Here’s where my annoyance comes in. Some of the biggest plot questions revolving around the protagonist, Corrin, are answered with the Hidden Truths DLC. You find out about their father, why they can turn into a dragon, why characters from Fire Emblem: Awakening are in Fates, and why Lilith is significant to Corrin. All things, I think, should have been answered at least in the Revelation path, where you are supposed to discover truths not revealed in the other two game paths. There was no reason the Awakening trio couldn’t tell Corrin about their relationship to everything once they were in Valla. Plot time much better spent than inexplicably killing a dear ally again with the temporary betrayal of another ally, which only served as unnecessary drama. The information from Hidden Truths would have made the final battle more significant, too: Corrin discovering that Anankos was their father and having to defeat their father in the final battle. Everything would have been tied together. Instead, those significant plot features were tucked away in a DLC with basically a “Oh, yeah, btw, here are all the things that we didn’t have time to explain in three full games.”

And I’m not done with you, Dragon Age. I get the rationale behind putting Trespasser as a DLC. It gave time and space for the interim DLC to be released and some time to have pass for the Inquisition. It serves more as an extended epilogue than a final chapter for Dragon Age: Inquisition. That being said, it cannot be denied that Trespasser is vitally important to the Dragon Age story and for the events to come in Dragon Age 4. With Solas revealing his entire significance and plans for the future, we, as the Inquisitor, are left with one of those “significant decision” choices. This is indicating to us that the decision to stop or redeem Solas will be important in the future game, and it will certainly be influential when meeting Solas again. I don’t know if there was a good way to handle a DLC that significant. Do you attach it to the base game with a warning and hope people don’t accidentally play it before playing the other DLC, should they choose to buy them? Do you make it a free DLC and still release it as the last DLC? And what of the people who can’t play Trespasser because they own the previous generation of consoles, such as the PS3 or XBox360? (A situation I was in until a few months ago.)

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Charging for DLC at a reasonable price is fine, but this format does raise questions for how to handle additional, story-significant content. It’s like buying a book but then having to purchase the epilogue or additional chapters separately. Or how Marvel is handling their movies and shows nowadays: consume all the connected content or risk missing out on important details. You probably annoy your audience more by forcing them to purchase/consume additional content than if you leave it to “well, if you want to consume it, you can but it’s not necessary.” I’m not saying don’t make additional content (I know I love seeing it), but maybe there’s a way to deal with significant plot details in a way that doesn’t force consumption. There will be people who want to read/play/watch as much of the universe as possible, but there should also be consideration for the casual audience who may not want to spend the time/money on something that should have been part of the main story already.

What are your thoughts? How do you think DLC/other materials should be handled? Should there be warnings for what DLC/other materials will be needed before a game comes out? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Happy gaming!

~ M

The Gamer Tag!

I saw this tag over at A Geek Girl’s Guide and thought it would be fun to do! I’ve spoken a bit about my gaming history in my Introductions post, but this will give a bit more insight into my gaming habits.

This tag was originally created by ZombieGoddess Beauty, and without further ado…

1. What is your gamer tag?

I technically have several different ones, depending on what I’m using to play, but for Steam, I go as Tactician_M. Since starting this blog, I’ve been using TheGamersJourney more.

2. PC or Console?

Console, definitely. It’s what I use most, and I love how I can pull out an old console at any time and play a game that’s ages old whenever I feel nostalgic (which is a lot of the time).

3. Console of choice?

Right now: the PS4. I am really enjoying the games available for the system and how I have a lot to still look forward to.

4. Handheld of choice? (DS, PS Vita, etc.)

3DS. When it first came out, I was definitely in the camp of “why do I need another DS?” Oh how wrong I was. It’s home to some of my favorite games and I just love the whole feel of the handheld. I hope Nintendo keep making games for it, because I’m not quite ready to say goodbye.

5. Keyboard or Gamepad?

I don’t have a Gamepad for my computer, so keyboard I guess? In general, I much prefer a controller since it’s what I’m most used to using.

6. Singleplayer or Multiplayer?

When I was younger, I almost exclusively played multiplayer games (couch multiplayer), but since discovering my love of RPGs, I lean towards singleplayer. It’s been very recently (within the last year) that I’ve delved into the world of online multiplayer.

7. What was the first game you have ever played?

Mario Kart on the Nintendo 64. I’m sure I was playing some computer games around that time too, but for me, the credit still goes to Mario Kart.

8. Hardest game you have ever played?

I distinctly remember this one game my sister and I had as kids, called Master of the Elements. I don’t know if we skipped the instructions or something but we always felt completely lost and did not have a clue of what to do in it. Wonder what would happen now if we tried it out again….

9. What was your first gaming system?

Nintendo 64! My sister and I got it for Christmas one year.

10. What is your favorite game of all time?

I love a lot of different games for different reasons, so it would be hard for me to choose just one. Though, if asked which game I would play again and again without hesitation, it would probably be Fire Emblem: Awakening.

11. What game is currently your favorite?

This switches all the time, based on what I’m currently playing, but based on what I’ve been recently playing: Dishonored 2. Everything from the look of the game, to the music, to the gameplay, to the story, I’m at that stage where I’m eager to learn more about everything there is to that world.

12. Favorite video game genre?

I’ve mentioned before that I really love RPGs for their stories and characters, but also really enjoy simulation games (like The SimsHarvest Moon, etc.). There’s something relaxing about them where it’s less about navigating a story and more about “what do you want to do today?”

13. Favorite video game character?

It’s really difficult for me to choose one, but to narrow it down, I really love Bigby Wolf and Snow White from The Wolf Among Us. They’re true to their original fairy tale characterization but the adaptation also gives them their own distinct quirks and personalities. There may be also a slight bias from having read the Fables comics before the game was even announced. (Go read them if you haven’t already!)

14. Which video game character do you hate most?

Teddie from Persona 4. I don’t make it a habit of outright hating characters, but I really can’t stand him. I just found him annoying in every scene he was in.

15. What new game are you most excited for?

There’s a lot to look forward to this year, but since Persona 5 is coming out next week(!!), that’s what I’m currently most excited for.

16. Favorite video game company/developer?

I’ve really enjoyed the games Telltale Games has come out with, particularly the mechanics of how they choose to tell stories. BioWare is also a favorite for Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and their Dragon Age series.

17. What gaming systems do you currently have?

Well… I probably have most generations of Nintendo consoles and handhelds starting with the Nintendo 64 and the GameBoy Color, except for the Wii U and the recent Switch. On the Playstation side, I have a PS3, PSP, and a PS4.

18. How long have you been gaming?

…about 20 years. I just did the math on that. Goodness, has it really been that long?

19. How long was your longest gaming session?

It can’t be more than 5-6 hours in one sitting. I’m not one for long game sessions, though sometimes I wish I could be.

20. What game have you clocked the most time on?

Fire Emblem: Awakening is probably the longest recorded time, with a lovely 370 hours played. Gotta get those support conversations. (And I used to think that the 100 hours on Pokemon Emerald was impressive….)

If you want to do the tag yourself, the questions are down below!

1. What is you gamer tag?

2. PC or Console?

3. Console of choice?

4. Handheld of choice? (DS, PS Vita, etc.)

5. Keyboard or Gamepad?

6. Singleplayer or Multiplayer?

7. What was the first game you have ever played?

8. Hardest game you have ever played?

9. What was your first gaming system?

10. What is your favorite game of all time?

11. What game is currently your favorite?

12. Favorite video game genre?

13. Favorite video game character?

14. Which video game character do you hate most?

15. What new game you are most excited for?

16. Favorite video game company/developer?

17. What gaming systems do you currently have?

18. How long have you been gaming?

19. How long was your longest gaming session?

20. What game have you clocked the most time on?

Happy gaming!

~ M

Introductions

Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn wasn’t the first RPG I had ever played, that’s an honor that belongs to Pokemon, but it was the first game that taught me that stories were not just window dressing for game mechanics. It was the first time I had truly paid attention and engaged with the characters, the story, and my motivation was not just driven by trying to defeat the final boss but in trying to find out what happens at the end of the story. It read to me like all the books that I loved, but this time, I was actively trying to help these characters move through the narrative. Mercenaries fighting for a cause, battle-ready princesses who were ready to join the fray, and an overarching mystery I had to solve; it was unlike anything I had ever played before and I knew immediately I needed more like it.

I could say I have a long history of gaming, ever since my sister and I received a Nintendo 64 when I was 6. We didn’t play too many “story” games back then, a lot of Mario Kart and other Mario Sports. Pokemon came a few years later and I could have paid attention to the narrative then but my 10 year old self was more concerned with making my way around Kanto with Pikachu at my side. I went through some simulation games (like The Sims and Zoo Tycoon) over the next few years, but it would be Super Smash Bros. Brawl that led me to a genre that would ultimately change my life. Like many who knew Fire Emblem before Awakening, I stumbled across the series by way of the question: “Who is that blue-haired sword wielder?” (There were many more where that came from, apparently.) It was then I was able to confirm “my genre” as RPGs, and it would be several years more when I would add Dragon Age and the Persona series to my list of favorite game series. So where am I going with all this?

While studying for my English degree, I realized the things that I was learning about literature could also be applied to video games and how they work as a storytelling medium. It’s easy to limit the gaming experience to just strategy and mechanics: what armor has the best defense? What sword/bow/staff should I have equipped? Where is the best place to stand to attack this monster? However, there is this big emphasis now on the narrative and characters of the game. Just take a look at the recent popularity of the Telltale games, Life is Strange, Overwatch…. Heck, look at the games that have won Game of the Year in the past several years. I have long advocated (to any of my friends and family who will listen) that video games are a valid medium for storytelling. With this blog, I want to explore more of that. Video games can be just as meaningful and profound as a book, movie, or a TV show, and I want to analyze games that do just that. I’ll be looking at games with good narratives, well rounded characters, and games that utilize their mechanics as a way to uniquely tell their story. Don’t worry, I won’t bore you with some college English essay on the color symbolism of the Super Mario cast, that’s not why I’m here, but I’d like to take a look at how well game developers got their story across and the unique ways they used the video game medium to do so.

I will post on select Fridays, either discussing my first impressions on a new game I’ve played or discussing storytelling elements of a game or games. Be sure to be on the look out for new posts, either through my social media or by subscribing to me here!

Happy gaming!

~M