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

No Surprises Here!

Rating: M for Blood, Drug Reference, Partial Nudity, Sexual Themes, Strong Language, and Violence

Available for: Playstation 3, Playstation 4

This post doesn’t have any spoilers for once!

It is way too cliche at this point to say that Atlus’ Persona 5 stole my heart, but I’m going to say it anyway. I had high, high expectations for this game, particularly after years of waiting and with each trailer being more thrilling than the last. I’m happy to report that with all the elements put together, this might end up being my favorite Persona game yet.

When the Persona 5 protagonist, Akira Kurusu is falsely accused of physical assault, arrested, sued, convicted, expelled, and put on probation, he is sent to live with a guardian in Tokyo for the year. It is during his first day of classes at his new school that he discovers the Metaverse, a cognitive plane of reality that causes the distorted desires of people to manifest in the forms of Palaces. Together with his friends and a talking cat named Morgana, Akira forms the Phantom Thieves, a group with the goal of “stealing the hearts” of people with distorted desires in order to force them into a change of heart in reality. As the group grows in size and popularity, the Phantom Thieves soon find themselves in the middle of a conspiracy bent on causing their downfall.

There is a lot to dissect in this game and a number of serious topics are made very prevalent throughout the game, particularly the discussion of different forms of abuse. I won’t be discussing these themes in my post, but instead, I wanted to focus on reviewing the game as a whole and a lot of the elements that worked well in the narrative. What I found to be most interesting about Persona 5 is that it combines many of the features of previous games in the series while changing up the formula in way that creates a more fluid narrative progression than before.

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For people who have played Persona games before, you know that you start your year in the spring and play (mostly) day-to-day until the end of December, before the story ends a year after it started. Persona 5 immediately changes this format by starting the story six months after Akira has started his transfer year. You find that he has been arrested again and is being interrogated by Prosecutor Sae Niijima, who asks for the full story of how he got to this point. In various parts throughout the game, it will flash back and forth to the interrogation, giving small hints for things to come. It makes the story all the more intriguing by using this set-up (especially for the turning point), foregoing some of the day-to-day monotony the previous games tended to have when waiting for a new boss/dungeon.

That being said, time efficiency became more important than ever. Most days were filled with narrative and set-up for the coming dungeon missions, giving what felt like less time to actually work on the dungeon and make connections with people through Social Links than in games past. In this way, the story moved much faster with a sort of streamlined focus, but this change also ended up having both pros and cons. On the one hand, I never felt like I had nothing to do (because there was plenty to work on), but on the other hand, I definitely felt the time constraints. More characters needed maxed out Social Stats before I could interact with them, meaning I had to choose very specifically whose Social Link I wanted to work through for this first playthrough. Comparatively, in my first Persona 4 playthrough, I was able to max out a number of the companions and several main characters. (It could also be that I was terrible at managing my time this go around.)

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The Persona games like to put a lot of emphasis on making connections with various characters, particularly those in your own party. Persona 3 had limited Social Links among your companions (P3P aside), but Persona 4 allowed you to Social Link with all of your teammates, creating character story arcs that continued past their initial Persona awakening. Persona 5 takes up Persona 4’s example. I found myself loving the main cast, finding each of the characters dynamic, interesting, and a lot of fun to interact with. They felt less “trope-y,” with nuances that helped to make each of the characters more than a single character trait. Yes, they do play up some of their more obvious character traits, but there were elements that showed other sides to their character (Ann can’t act to save her life, Yusuke is terrible with money, etc). Akira also had a more prevalent personality, which did get shown more during the cutscenes and was referenced later on in the game as well. It was obvious throughout the game that the entire group really liked each other too (with some bickering in between), and this was particularly evident during their group get-togethers that didn’t involve fighting Shadows. (The group’s interactions through texts were particularly fun to watch.)

And of course, it wouldn’t be a Persona game without a whole lotta dungeon crawling. The usual format got turned on its head here too, and it was very welcomed. Puzzles, interacting with the world, and of course, setting up a specific day for you to fight the dungeon’s boss, it certainly made the experience more than just level grinding with Shadows. The new boss-fighting days do take two days from your schedule, but the excellent music and the intensity upgrade for the dungeon made the experience all the more exciting. The dungeons also stayed true to the entire “thieving” motif, making Palaces in the form of popular settings to steal from (i.e. museums, casinos, etc.) and having you sneak around to get to the desired Treasure.

I don’t want this to go on too long so I’ll finish with a few more thoughts:

1. The Metaverse Navigation App was a nice touch in acknowledgment to modern day use of technology, not to mention all the other references to how the world uses social media to view the world.

2. The art style of this game was so cool and well suited to the feel of the game, and as always, the music was excellent (it will be on repeat for me for the next month, I can assure you).

3. I didn’t address it earlier, but I thought there were a few characters that could have been treated better by the game itself and several “jokes” that Atlus needs to do away with.

Overall, Persona 5 really exceeded my expectations and I had a really great time playing it. There was an intensity and heaviness to the story that felt very reminiscent of Persona 3, but it still had a lot of lighthearted and really hilarious moments. In fact, there were a lot of homages to the previous Persona games, in a way that brought in the best elements while still introducing new features to the series that really enhanced the whole game. The narrative felt more focused too, less time spent on shenanigans that didn’t really contribute to the story and more time actually developing a dynamic between all the characters. You don’t need to have played a previous Persona game to enjoy Persona 5, so if you have a chance to, I would definitely recommend checking it out!

Persona 5 Official Website

Persona 5 Launch Trailer

Happy gaming!

~ M