Underneath my yellow skin

Tag Archives: video games

Breaking out of my comfort zone

life is sweet; life is good.
A typical street in Gozo.

I’m still recovering from my trip to Malta, and I want to talk more about it while weaving it with my travails in video gaming. Here’s my first post about Malta if you want some background into what I’m going to write here.

As longtime readers know, I have a very troubled relationship with sleep, fraught with tension, misery and pain. It’s slowly getting better over the past few years, and it’s reached the point where I can sleep up to six hours at one time.  I know you’re scratching your head and thinking, “What’s so great about that, Minna? I can do that every night!” Exactly, my friend. It’s something any person *should* be able to do, but let’s quickly recount my sleeping history.

Ever since I was a wee child, I’ve evaded sleep. My mom would put me to bed around eight or nine, and I’d stuff the towel under the door crack and read until midnight or later. Fast-forward to college my first year, and I was sleeping 3 1/2 hours a night. I couldn’t fall asleep until three or four in the morning, and I had a 7:45 a.m. class. Then, I’d go home for vacation and sleep 15 1/2 hours the first day while simultaneously catching a cold. In my twenties, 4 hours was my average. I stretched it to 5 in the next twenty years, and then with the help of taiji, I bumped it up to 6 – 6 1/2 hours.

Malta fucked with all that. I don’t think I slept more than three hours in one stretch, and I was so tired the whole time. Going in the ocean helped, but that only lasted as long as we were on the beach. Once we returned to the retreat center, I’d be hot, miserable, and tired again. There were a few moments of clarity as to how spoiled I am. How well-off Americans are in general, really.

It was interesting because I’m very aware of politics in America and how I’m a triple minority (Taiwanese, bi, female), fast becoming a fourth (old). I’m a person non grata, and I’ve resigned myself to my fate. My standard of living, however, is quite high in comparison to life on Malta. I’m not romanticizing when I say that life is much simpler on the island of Gozo. Well, maybe I am romanticizing it a bit, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that life is slower and a bit more easy-going on the islands than here in the US.

The other strange thing is how quiet it is in Gozo. In the States, there is a low-level hum that is as constant as it is ubiquitous. Even if there’s no other sound, the drone of all our electric shit surrounds us. In Gozo, there is none of that. When the people are quiet, all is quiet. It was one thing I really enjoyed about Malta. Honestly, if I had air, I would have found the quietness to be serene and peaceful.

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Games that stuck with me in 2017

I started a list of different games in 2017 that meant something to me one way or another. You can read the first part of the list here. I didn’t finish the list because it was getting long, so here are the rest of the games that stood out for me in 2017.

The best game that I wasn’t good enough to finish

Hollow Knight

I loved everything about this game from the minute my little bug-like creature starting smiting people with her trusty rusted nail. She was a big-eyed, rabbit-eared silent protagonist who was weary with the world, but she had a mission, and she was going to do it, damn it. I loved the gentle oppressive gloom that surrounded her, and I loved the gorgeous environments. I played through the second boss, and I loved the game with all my heart. However, there were two things that stopped me from continuing, and while one of them was tweakable (by the devs), one was not.

I suck at platforming. I hate it in the Souls games where it’s really awful, but I also hate it in games in which the platforming is the focus. I can jump from platform to platform if I concentrate hard enough, but I can’t do the jumps AND fight at the same time. In the beginning of the game, the platforming was low-key and manageable. When they started ramping it up, I was quickly out of my depth, and it was no longer enjoyable for me.

The other thing is that the currency received/prices of items ratio was way out of whack. Like Souls games, the XP you get is also the currency.  If you die, you lose it on the spot. If you die again before you make it back to your soul, you lose the souls forever (for example). In this game, you have to fight a shadow version of yourself to get your souls back, which is an added wrinkle. In addition, the amount of souls you get for killing enemies is a pittance compared to how much you have to pay for items is ridiculous. I remember I wanted to buy a key, and it was something like 900 souls. In a Souls game, that would mean killing one or two enemies (that aren’t the standard hollows), but in this game, you get 2 or 3 monies for killing each of the standard enemies. That’s a lot of souls to bank, and it took me a really long time to get that much. Then, the key didn’t even open up the lock I thought it would. How disappointing.

I love this game still. I just wish I could actually play it.

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His Name is Nioh and He Advances in Japan: Part Two

let's be samurai homies!
Lady Ginchiyo is a bad-ass!

I’ve been playing more Nioh, and I have plenty more to say about it. You can read my initial impressions here. I’m roughly half-way through the game, and the bloom has come somewhat off the rose. To briefly recap, Nioh is a game that has been called a mix between Dark Souls, Ninja Gaiden, and Diablo. You can probably guess that I’m here for the Souls part, and I enjoyed Diablo III as well. This should hit my sweet spot nicely, and it does. Kind of. I’ll get to that in a bit.  Oh, also, there will be mild spoilers, but nothing huge. Just FYI. When we last left off, I was describing the Estus system. Er, Elixirs. You start off with a certain amount, three is the base, and for every five Kodama you find in a region, you get one more base Elixir that will replenish every time you visit your Shrine. I know I said in my Bloodborne posts that a combination of a set number of Blood Vials that replenish at each Lamp in addition to the ones you pick up as you romp through Yharnam would be ideal, and that’s pretty much what we have here. However, as much as I liked it in theory, it doesn’t quite work in execution if you’re as mediocre at the game as I am. Right now, I’m roughly ten levels above what is recommended for the missions, and it’s the minimum I need to feel comfortable. You can store up to 9999 Elixirs, but I haven’t been able to even reach a hundred extra. One thing in BB that I appreciated was that I could buy Blood Vials. Yes, they were expensive as hell by the end of the game, but I wasn’t spending my Souls, er, Blood Echoes, on anything else, so why not? You cannot buy Elixirs in this game (as far as I know), but you can make offerings to the shrine of equipment/items/weapons you don’t want, and you receive Souls, Amrita, in return. In addition, you may be blessed with a gift, often an Elixir.

By the way, I had a terrible thing happen once while I was making my offerings. I do it regularly, especially when I need a few thousand Amrita for my next level. Once, right before a boss, I was making my offerings as quickly as I could. I’ve gotten into a routine of clicking as fast as possible, clearing up as much of my inventory as I can. I like to keep my load to under half of what I’m allowed to carry 500 items, so under 250). One niggling irritation is that if you’re offered a gift, and you can’t carry any more of that item, it gets sent to your storage. That’s not the annoying part. The annoying part is that when you get a gift, you have to click on it. That’s bad enough, but if it’s being sent to storage, a message saying you can’t carry any more and do you want it sent to your storage will pop up, and you have to click on confirm. That’s two more clicks than should be necessary to accept a gift (it should just be automatic), and it’s especially annoying to have to confirm you want it sent to storage. Yes, it’s a small thing, but if I’m doing the process twenty to thirty times, it adds up. Anyway, you use the trigger buttons to go from one category to the next. Weapons, helmets, torso armor, etc. Apparently, I was holding it down plus hitting another button at the same time, so I ‘made an offering’ of all my weapons that weren’t equipped. Because I was doing it as quickly as I could, I said yes before I had realized what I’d done. I can’t tell you how upsetting that was. Not because I use the other weapons, but because some of them are given as rewards for missions. I actually had already done another sub-mission twice because I accidentally offered up the spear that I received as a reward. Now, I had four or five weapons that I could only get from redoing earlier missions. I didn’t really care otherwise because weapons drop like crazy, but I was still mad that this was a thing.

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Diversity and Gaming; Progress is Slow

back in black.
Come at me, bro. (SR IV)

I read an article about Anita Sarkeesian being harassed at a panel by Gamer Gaters, and it doesn’t surprise me at all. She’s become a lightning rod for all the problems hidden within the gaming community, and she’s dealt with a ton of harassment, much of it vile. She was targeted from the beginning when she announced that she was going to look at games from a feminist perspective because she loved games. That was it. It was enough to get the haters hating her, and someone made a game that allowed the player to beat up Anita. Before she even had one video, the hatred was intense, and it made me wonder why gamers’ egos were so fucking fragile. When her first video came out, I watched it. It wasn’t terrific, but she had a couple good points. I’ve watched a few more, and I’ve had the same conclusion every time. She makes some good points, but she’s overly broad (ha!) in her assessments. Also, she needs work on her presentation.

That said, there are a ton of problems with game and representation. Not just of women, but of any minority. Ian once asked me why I spent an hour customizing my avatar, for Mass Effect, I believe it was, when I can’t see my character as I play. It’s hard to explain why I do it, and I do it for every game when it’s possible. My favorite avatar is from Saints Row IV because she looks like me if you squint and as long as I keep sunglasses on her. I was so in love with her, I took dozens of pictures. Because of her, I liked the game even more than I normally would. Here’s the thing about representation. It does really fucking matter. Whether it’s movies or books or video games, seeing people like me makes a difference. Being invisible in media is a way of society saying, “You don’t matter. I don’t see you, and I don’t care.” It’s hard to explain if you’ve consistently had representation in media how alienating it is not to see yourself anywhere. I was watching RuPaul’s Drag Race on Netflix, and it would occasionally show an ad for one of its shows. I would say, “It’s white people doing white people thing!” Every fucking ad was predominantly white people. It’s 20 fucking 17, and I will not watch something without people of color in it. It’s really that simple. There is no excuse for it, and it’s just willful at this point.

Back to video games. It’s funny how the assholes bleating about special snowflakes (those of us who want diversity in video games) are the same ones who are upset when, say, Mafia III deals with racism in America. At the last E3 conference, there were three games coming out that I knew would piss off the Gamer Gaters. Gators? Whatever. Far Cry 5, Assassin’s Creed Origins, and Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. The enemy in the first game is far-right Americans; the second is set in Egypt with mostly non-white characters, and the third is set in America in the sixties, and the leading character of the American resistance in a black woman with a big Afro. The minute I heard about the last game, I tweeted:

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I Can Dance if I Want To…And Play Video Games

dance dance baby
Gotta move!

Good news, folks! I’m 95% recovered from the lurgy, and the aliens have decided it’s time for them to return to their home planet. One or two of them have stayed behind to nosh on my face, but they’re mostly full by now. I can actually run errands without having to take a nap afterwards, and I should be able to start increasing my morning routine again until I’m back to where I used to be. My appetite is back to normal, or, at least, what passes as normal for me, and I can interact with people again without it taking an enormous toll on me.

More importantly, I can game again! Hardcore game, I mean.  While I was sick, I played a lot of solitaire because that’s as much as my brain could handle. Now, I can play my beloved Souls without it being too taxing on my body or brain. Granted, Souls, especially the main game of DS III, is what I consider relaxing now, but still. It does take more energy than solitaire. I recently tried a game called Davyria, a Souls-inspired game that was on sale on Steam. I watched a few Let’s Plays before I bought it, and it looked like it might be up my alley. It’s VERY similar to Souls, but with an even worse UI. That’s saying a lot because Souls UI are well-known for being trash. DS III‘s UI is the best of the lot, but it’s still nothing to write home to Mom about. Anyway, it was cheap, and I liked the cell-shaded look to it, even if I wasn’t in love with the top-down perspective, so I bought it. I realized after I bought it that there was a free demo, but it was too late. I installed it, then tried it, eager to have another Souls-like experience.

Side note: Souls-like has become a genre of its own, and it’s been a frustrating genre for me. If the game is too much like Souls, but not as good, then I think, “I could just play a Souls game instead.” If it’s not like Souls at all, then I feel ripped off. I have yet to find one that hit the sweet spot of being enough like Souls to satisfy, but different enough not to be a pale imitation.

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