Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: Life is Strange

The importance of not being too earnest

There has been a trend in indie games in the past decade or so to make heartwarming games that have heartfelt narratives. In general, I approve of this trend because why not have more emotions instead of just stab, stab, stabbing everyone? It’s not a coincidence, I don’t think, that it’s indie devs who are cutting this pathway and not the triple A devs. Anyway, one of the first games I played that fit into this category was Gone Home by Fullbright. It was a mystery puzzle game that had the protagonist going home and finding everyone gone. You find out by picking items up and reading descriptions, then piecing together the story. It turns out that your younger sister is gay, and the story is quite heartbreaking.

Or at least it should be. I was eager to play the game because it had received universally high praise across the board. People were giddy about the representation and the story so I was eager to dive in. I was…underwhelmed to say the least. First, I have to say that my computer at the time couldn’t handle the game and would shut down after an hour or two of me playing it. The game wouldn’t save, so I’d have to start over again. And again. No matter what I did before my computer shut down, it wouldn’t save. I fully admit that probably biased me towards not enjoying the game.

However, I must also note that while I was playing it, I had the feeling of ‘is this it?’ in the back of my mind the whole time. Not that the story wasn’t compelling. Not that I wasn’t happy to have representation in games. It’s just that I couldn’t stop thinking that I’d read similar stories in YA literature. I realize it’s a different medium and it hadn’t been done before in video games, but it still fell flat to me. I was glad it existed, but it really didn’t do much for me.

A parallel of that is a game I recently called If Found by Dreamfeel. It’s about a trans teen (late teens) in rural Ireland and the travails of her daily life. It’s a short game and can be finished in an hour, and I like the mechanic of erasing things. The story is sad and familiar, but at the same time, it just….I don’t know. It felt slightly hollow for me. But I’m not a trans teen who’s feeling isolated by her gender so I don’t think I’m qualified to comment on that aspect. It’s also a game I’m glad exists, and I hope there are trans teens who play it and feel seen.


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The state of my game in 2019

Normally, this is the time of the year when I start handing out game awards with goofy names. The criteria is not what I consider the best games of the year, but games that I liked the best. I very rarely play the games on the best of the year lists, especially in the year they are released, so I don’t have much to contribute to that conversation. The one exception, of course, are FromSoft games, and I promise I will get to that later–but probably not in this post. A few weeks ago, I started thinking about the games I played this year, and I realized that there weren’t many that really stood out for me. More to the point, there weren’t that many that I actually finished.

I tend to play one ‘big’ game at a time (big in terms of amount of things to do, not necessarily Triple A or story-wise or whatnot). Ian and I like to joke that he has an ADD approach to gaming whereas I have an OCD approach. However, I’ve been thinking lately that I am more ADD than OCD than I previously thought. Yes, I can focus on one thing to the exclusion of everything else, but that’s the hyperfocus part of ADD. Anyway, this year, I played Sekiro at the end of March/all of April when it was released. I played it obsessively. I thought about it when I wasn’t playing it. I dreamed about it. It was in my blood, and I didn’t have room to think about anything else. We shall,  of course, get to that later.

One of my enduring quests is to find a mystery game that I can really sink my teeth into.  There are plenty of mystery games out there, but, unfortunately, most of them are…not great. I’ve written at length about my disappointment with them before (and the point-and-click genre in general), so I’m not going to rehash those points. I’ll just say that my experiences this year with the genre cemented my belief that those games are not for me. I tried Unavowed and Thimbleweed earlier in the year, and while the former held promise (the latter irritated me from the beginning), it inevitably fell into the trap that so many point-and-clicks do–namely, making me do elaborately nonsensical things to accomplish a quest AND showing me things I knew I would need later, but did not allow me to pick up the first time I saw them. This is the year I’ve given up on point-and-clicks, and I’m a bit sad about it.


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Let’s talk about Life is Strange tangentially

Life is Strange is a game that should be up my alley. It’s an immersive story about a disaffected young woman named Max Caulfield who is at a private school for photography. I don’t know if that’s the official explanation, but that’s what I garnered. By the way, I spent the first ten minutes or so of the game thinking that Max was named after the protagonist of Catcher in the Rye until I remembered his name was Holden.

Anyway, it’s a critically-acclaimed indie game by Dontnod Entertainment. Well, the studio is indie, but it was published by Microsoft. And apparently Squeeeenix (Square Enix) was involved at some point. It was released in episodes, and I waited until it came out in one game to buy it because, sale, and I don’t like to buy things episodically. What if they fold before the final episode? I don’t want that to happen to me as I have a hard enough time with endings.

The game, as I said, is about Max Caulfield, and she’s in a small town in Oregon after having been away for several years. When we join our young heroine, she is in a photography class. The teacher is someone who was a big photographer in the past, and he’s the reason Max wanted to go to the school. He irritated me from the start, but I tried to suspend my irritation and give him the benefit of the doubt. He continued to irritate me because he reminded me of countless hipster white dudes with a modicum of talent who thought they were way better than they actually were.

Side note: I have very strong reactions to things, and I rarely change from my immediate impression. Especially if the immediate reaction is negative. I have liked things and gone off them, but if I hate something from the start, it’s very difficult to change my mind. If I’m not crazy about something, but there’s a spark there, then I might change my mind over time.

For example, during their 7-hour Dark Souls livestream, Rory from RKG mentioned Aoife Wilson and Johnny Chiodini from Eurogamer and that they were also doing a Dark Souls playthrough. DS III, I believe. He said they were lovely (and friends of RKG) and if you liked Dark Souls playthroughs, you should check them out. Someone said they came to RKG after hearing them mentioned by Johnny and Aoife. I just reached that episode, and it’s hilarious that they cite one of my favorite early-on moments from the current season of DS II. After the creation of Mama Finchy, Gav wants to see what she looks like, so Rory has her in her bra and bloomers from the back. Then he starts humming the beginning of Man! I Feel Like a Woman by Shania Twain, turns Mama Finchy to face the camera, and Gav and Rory shout, “Let’s go, girls!” I laughed out loud at that.


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