marți, 13 aprilie 2010

A man chooses, a slave obeys

Imagine this: a city built in the Atlantic's darkest, lowest corners (it's called Rapture). Well, there's where the action of BioShock 1 and 2 takes place. Surrounded by art-deco buildings, ruined landscapes, maniacal leaders and a lot of crazy, genetically-enhanced soldiers (the Splicers), you must make your way through this city of death. 

Rapture was built in the early 50's by Andrew Ryan, a businessman dissatisfied by the politics of post-WWII world. There, he invited the "world's best and brightest" to form a city without God, government, morality or ethics. Everything changed when ADAM was discovered, a substance that rewrites your DNA and gives you superpowers. This discovery led to the rise of Ryan's rival, Frank Fontaine, the creation of the armored Big Daddies and creepy but innocent Little Sisters. Ultimately, Fontaine staged his own death and was reborn under the alias Atlas, waging a war with Ryan that would destroy Rapture.

But that was in 1959. One year later in the first game, and nine years later in the second game, you come across Rapture. You will need to wield deadly weapons, such as the Drill, the Spear Gun and... the Hack Tool or Research Camera. All these can be upgraded and many more (with the exception of the last two) by adding firepower, bigger rounds, new types of ammo and finally upgrading them to the final level. Upgrades include bullets that catch on fire, electrifying buckshots and the ability to spin your Drill and make bullets ricochet in every direction!

Not to mention the Plasmids, abilities gained from gene-altering such as shooting bolts of electricity of fire from your fingertips, creating whirlwinds, letting loose swarms of bees, creating fake copies of yourself to trick the enemy, exiting your body and entering a ghost-like state and manipulating Security Cameras. Not to mention the Gene Tonics, passive abilities that allow you to hack computers faster, deal more damage with certain weaponry or enhance your armor.

I'm in love with this game...

But how do you get the ADAM needed for this? By harvesting or rescuing Little Sisters that hold ADAM inside them. But this  is a moral choice and harvesting/killing them will give you more ADAM, but it's... well, bad. So it's your choice, be sure to make the best one.

Oh, one more thing. In the first game you play as a human, but he's a "wet rag" in the words of the narrator of BioShock 2's trailer. In the second one, however, you play as a Big Daddy, so have fun with that Drill!     

vineri, 19 martie 2010

Analysis of darkness or why we like to be frightened to the point when we cry out for our mommy

A genre of games that has slowly emerged ever since the early 90's has been dubbed the survival horror genre. Made by mixing (in a smart way, of course) light, darkness, monsters, mystery and randomly placed chewed, bloody corpses, its sole purpose is to frighten you.

Fright produces a sudden burst of adrenaline in your body and increases the heart rate, making you feel "alive", if you've felt like a zombie before. For others, it's just the pleasant feeling of having your heart rate return to normal.

Resident Evil started it with its claustrophobic atmosphere and creepy monsters, while Dark Space, Fallout 3, BioShock 2, Metro 2033 and Alan Wake continued it. Whether it is a scary atmosphere or scarier monsters, you'll be brought to the point where you'll have to clean your bedsheets!

Dark Space is set on a spaceship in the future. You're in orbit around a mysterious mining planet and all the ship's crew has been turned into Necromorphs, vicious beasts made from corpses that need to be "systematically dismembered", as the producers put it. Tight spaces, a beautiful and frightening blend of light and darkness and the enemies make your adventure as sick as possible.

Fallout 3 is set in a post-nuclear future littered with mutant creatures, tight spaces (a must have of survival horrors), creepy, awkward or funny characters, nukes, 3-stories tall beasts, dark humour, an exaggerated amount of guts and blood and 50's music.

BioShock 2, the sequel to the award-winning BioShock continues the story of Rapture, an underwater city destroyed by corruption, greed and an army of crazy, genetically enhanced, drug-addicted freaks. You now play as a Big Daddy, an armored behemoth who protects the Little Sisters, girls that collect a substance that gives you superhuman powers. Traverse the flooded chambers fighting off the aforementioned freaks, the shrieking Big Sister and other Daddies.

Metro 2033 takes to a civilization built in the subway tunnels of Moscow in the aftermath of a nuclear war, where you strive to survive psychic monsters, nazis, communists while using darkness as your ally and enemy, a bunch of wacky weapons and a rag-tag group of allies.

Alan Wake tells the story of a thriller novel writer who goes with his wife to a small, quiet town to regain his ability to write. Strange things start to happen as dark creatures attack you in this twilight atmosphere. You have to find out where your wife is and why the events of a novel Alan never wrote are unfolding before his eyes.

So all you need is mystery, monsters and darkness to make a bed-wetting horror game!

duminică, 14 martie 2010

Psychology of the gamer

First of all, I'd like to say that the hiatus has helped me gain a better understanding of the ways of gaming and gamers. I have studied conferences, interviews and personal opinions related to games. So, without any other unnecessary words... I'M F*CKING BACK!!!

Why do we like certain games? There must be tens of genres for video games only, but we like only a small select number of them. My studies have shown me that because the brain can only select a limited number of genres to like, it has made a complex way of choosing them based on subconscious factors, active preferences and personality. So I've divided gamers into 3 large categories: "liberals", "thinkers" and "socialists".

NOTE: the names I've given them have no connection to their political preferences or ties with the academic elite. It's just my political, sarcastic humor.


The "liberals" can be described as people who want to be as free as possible. They're most likely active in their daily lives (a.i. sportsmen, swimmers, fitness enthusiasts, people that do regular exercise and practice sports); they are the tougher and more popular ones. These people play games that consist in as much action as possible. Climbing walls, fighting endless waves of monsters, swinging your sword, shooting left and right and getting their daily adrenaline rush is what they want. The games they play include GTA games, anything that requires shooting without thinking (Modern Warfare 2) or wildly swinging your sword (God of War III), Prince of Persia, adventure games etc. Also, if the game has horror styles, all the better!


The "thinkers" are the cool, calculated people that need their daily food for thought. They need to keep their brains and senses sharp so they play games that require more thinking and calculating. These people (me included) are smart, like to think and probably wear glasses --> geeks or nerds as they are usually called.. the games they like include strategy games, more complex RPGs that involve decisions based on a moral scale and multiple paths to finishing a quest, shooters with tactical parts (Brothers in Arms, Star Wars: Battlefront II or BioShock 2). Luckily, there are already some good games, like Bad Company 2 or Supreme Commander 2, which are already out and many more to come (RUSE and C&C 4). Not to mention the strategy games' expansion into console worlds, with games like Red Alert 3, Halo Wars or Tiberium Wars already out for Xbox 360.


Generally the people with a mild personality, who are not fond of overkill or gore. Girls are usually part of this group, along with people that like to socialize with others. Multiplayer online games like WoW, Aion or Guild Wars fit them. But that doesn't mean they won't settle in for the multiplayer components of other games. And let's not forget the Facebook or Yahoo! games.

So we see that there are quite a lot of types of people. But don't get me wrong, a person can always change (I'm an ex-liberal) and some people can be both liberal and socialists, or socialists and thinkers (sometimes my case). In the end, it all comes down to what you want.    

miercuri, 16 decembrie 2009

Through my eyes

"Take care of him" the young boy would always tell his grandmother before leaving on a class trip. He was always very kind to me, just like the rest of his family. His mother was always working, but she was the one who had bought me for the boy's 12th birthday. Although sometimes rough, she was kind and loving. I spent a lot of my spare time with his grandmother. When the boy and his mother were working between 8 AM and 3 PM, she would make sure I always had enough water or biscuits. And when she finished cooking and washing, she would always talk to me and I would respond in my own language. You see, even though the boy's 15th birthday was approaching, the old lady still thought of me as a strange creature due to my colourful feathers or round beak.

And last but not least was the boy, always friendly and joyful to see me. He would talk the most to me, about what was happening at a place he called "skuul", or what his homework was. When he wasn't watching TV or writing on pieces of paper strange symbols, he would press two buttons and a large, rectangular machine would awaken along with its 32 inch partner. After a few minutes, the "scrin" would lighten up and show many i9mages which apparently made the boy laugh or get angry, though I never understood which made him happy and which didn't.

Still, there was one small, rectangular white box the boy liked the most. It had a hand held device which magically controlled it, which needed regular cleaning and battery changing. And sometimes he would put my cage next to the couch so that I could watch how he played. He played many games. When he was angry, he would play a game in which he either was or controlled magic sticks of different shapes and colors which would make loud noises whenever the man in front of them fell to the ground, never to rise again. With one press, the sticks would shoot small coconuts that made even louder noises and released more colours, mostly yellow and orange. When he was happy, he would play games in which a man would either steal cars and use the aforementioned sticks or he would use a sword and fly through the air killing ugly monsters. When he was bored, he would play a strange game in which you couldn't see the main character (although everyone called him "President") but you could see the city and decide wether to build buildings or not, what buildings to build and how much of that green paper with people's faces on it you would give to the workers.

I was always admired by friends that came by. His best friend would comment whenever I sang, but he liked me, while his class mate admired me since he had a parrot like me too. The two little cousins and neighbors would always stare at me with round eyes and pat my head while the adult guests would tell them not to, fearing that I may bite.

I can't say I long for my homecountry of Colombia, or for my spouse who died a year ago. I am well fed, always entertained, always happy and I am only 7 years old, so I will live to see the boy graduate from "skuul". But I've always wondered why he played the games in the first place. Was he addicted to them? I don't think so. Maybe he just liked to relax, like any other human, and everyone has his own ways of relaxing. Still, I wonder if he could give me some of the coconuts he throws to other people...