Here’s something a little different.
I saw this on the twitter of @ThePetronious and I figured I’d give my two cents on the matter. Consider this a more casual, light-hearted post while I work on some other stuff. Without further ado, it’s time to visit the past and answer some questions on one of my favourite pastimes: video games.
1. My very first video game
In terms of the first game I ever played, I couldn’t say. I used to visit my neighbour and good friend where we’d play games together for hours on his PS2. Which game, you ask? I cannot remember even slightly, but what I do remember is receiving a PS2 of my own when I was four years of age along with three games. Two of them were Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc and Sypro 2: Gateway To Glimmer, but the one I played first was Shrek 2: Team Action. I remember it quite well, and upon researching it for this post, it was certainly a nostalgic whirlwind. As far as I know, it received well with critics upon release so I guess it was actually decent. However, in my mind, it’s the greatest game ever made, and the one that started it all.
2. My favourite video game character
Easy: GlaDOS from the Portal series. There is no doubt in my mind that GlaDOS is the funniest and best-written character of all time. It is the tremendous dark humour that makes up a large part of why the series is so appealing to me (apart from its inventive and challenging puzzles, of course) and GlaDOS essentially epitomises everything I love about Portal as a whole. Furthermore, if I didn’t love this character enough, Portal 2 develops upon her past, and actually manages to make me feel something for one of the most despicable antagonists in recent years: empathy. That, in and of itself, is incredible.
3. A game that is underrated
Another easy pick: Guacamelee!. Granted, this game has been out for a very long time and it’s likely many people are aware of this fantastic 2D Luchadorable fighter, but as far as I know, this one is an unknown. Let me phrase it this way: if Portal is the funniest game series of all time, Guacamelee! comes at a strong second for me (apart from perhaps Undertale). The writing could hold this game alone, but it just so happens to be accompanied by some of the most addictive fighting gameplay I’ve experienced in a 2D platformer. Check this one out if you haven’t, it’s even cheap(ish).
4. My guilty pleasure game
This one is tricky, since I tend to consider “guilty pleasures” a dumb phrase (no, I will not feel guilty for what I like!), but one series which I have likely sunk upwards of one thousand hours into, over the span of three console generations and seven instalments, is FIFA. I don’t even follow football in real life anymore so I still confuse myself as to why I continue to play and enjoy this game, and I think nostalgia contributes much to this. I remember playing FIFA with friends as a young child, until being gifted FIFA 07, which I played excessively, then tragically misplaced the disc for many years. However, my FIFA addiction was enabled further by my parents buying me a PS3 as a Christmas present, and the rest is history. Unconditionally, and perhaps unjustifiably, I love this game.
5. The video game character I feel I am most like (or wish I was)
The player character in Paper’s Please for one simple reason. I can relate to his struggle: no matter how hard you try, or how many lives you ruin with great reluctancy and hardship, and as a result your entire family dies of sickness, hunger or cold, and you are arrested for some shit you didn’t even do. You know, relatable stuff.
6. The most annoying video game character
I’m going to choose Jar Jar Binks, whom one may argue is not a video game character and is in fact one of the lead roles in the critically acclaimed Star Wars prequel, The Phantom Menace. However, I beg to differ, good sir, for he is a member of the playable character roster in the LEGO Star Wars games and even with no dialogue, he’s still a cunt. Mr Binks does not deserve to be able to jump higher; he doesn’t deserve any special abilities. His presence alone is enough to chuck the television out the window.
7. My favourite video game couple
This one is uncontested: Sans and Papyrus of Undertale. Wait, this section was supposed to be reserved for romantic couples? Well, it doesn’t specify in the list so my choice is still valid (nyah nyah). GlaDOS may be the funniest character in gaming, but Sans and Papyrus are definitely the funniest pair of characters. Both are so well-written that they are the ideal example for brotherly love and relationship in not just video games, but all mediums. They are so well-written that within the first few interactions the player witnesses between them, it is made immediately obvious that they are brothers, through their hilarious banter and silly goings-on, whilst simultaneously juggling that with their very visible care and love for one another with great skill. Another easy question, give me something harder, list!
8. The best video game soundtrack
Well. I know I said “hard” but this is quite the imbalanced difficulty curve. Soundtracks can often turn a good game into a great one, for me at least. Obvious ones to go for are The Last Of Us, Portal, Super Mario (any of the games), and so on, but I think my favourite game soundtrack is probably The Walking Dead: A Telltale Game Series, purely for the response it tends to illicit from me. Every time I hear almost every song on this soundtrack, it hurtles me back to the drug store, the farm, the roadside motel, the hotel, and of course, the ending. My opinion here is certainly a bias one, as this is one of my favourite games of all time, but it is most definitely my pick.
9. The saddest game scene
This one is also very tough. I’m quite the Blubby McBlubberface concerning films and games, so there are quite a few to choose from here. However, of course I must refer to the scene which never fails to choke up a little every time I see it, so SPOILERS I suppose for The Last Of Us and Sarah’s death. One could argue this one is cheating, since it is a cut scene as opposed to a gameplay experience, and that this emotional reaction could be brought on just as easily by a movie. However, the list says the “saddest game scene” and, last I checked, The Last Of Us was a game, so I’m counting it. Besides, my second choice would have been the ending to the same game, which was gameplay, so The Last Of Us wins regardless.
10. The best gameplay in a video game
This is yet another incredibly broad, incredibly difficult, question. I mean, gameplay is what makes a game a game, so understandably this is a tricky one. However, I think I’ll settle on Portal again, for its revolutionary puzzle mechanics that offered up a fresh, new perspective and take on both the puzzle genre and the FPS genre. One could argue Portal set the bar for both of these game styles, and I would agree in that respect. Need I say more?
11. My gaming system of choice
I don’t think I can answer this one definitively. While I love video games, I couldn’t tell you which system I play on the most. If I’m really honest with myself, I probably use the XBOX One the most, but that’s more based on the fact it is my only reliable way of playing new games that run consistently well (we won’t talk about Assassin’s Creed), but recently I’ve been trying to catch up on games of the past, so I use my PS3 much more now for retro and last-gen games, like Bully and Dishonored, and naturally I use my Mac to play PC-exclusive games like Undertale and Papers Please. I think that with sufficient funds and enough time, I’d settle on a PC and for consoles, I’d need to side with Sony’s Playstation for those must-buy exclusives from Naughty Dog and Team Ico.
12. A game everyone should play
This question is too broad in my opinion, so I’ll recommend certain games for certain reasons. I’ll start with The Last Of Us for its exceptional writing and fantastic characters. If you’re looking for a great character study, this is the one to settle on. Next is Papers Please, for its incredible ability to take the seemingly mundane process of checkpoint management, and turning it into possibly the most tense and engaging video game experience of my life. INSIDE is the one I would recommend to show exactly how to design and pace a game perfectly, with a lovely little engaging narrative on the side.
13. A game I’ve played more than five times
Admittedly, I’m not really the kind of person that replays games. I tend to be completely fine with one or even two playthroughs and feel as though I can gather my opinions on a game with just that. However, one game that I have repeatedly returned to for some reason or another is The Last Of Us, which I have played through 3 times. Perhaps the reason is that I love movies and The Last Of Us is probably the closest thing to a good video game movie currently available that we will ever get. Neil Druckmann, the creative director and writer behind the game, clearly wants to focus on telling a story and developing characters first, and figuring out the gameplay second. While a lot of people take issue to this, I’m totally fine with it, which helps because the gameplay is incredibly fun regardless. I’m not entirely sure what keeps drawing me back to The Last Of Us, but you know what? I’m not complaining.
14. My current (or most recent) gaming wallpaper
Currently on my computer the wallpaper is that of Overwatch and my most recent phone gaming wallpaper was a picture of Ellie in the upcoming The Last Of Us: Part II.
15. Post a screenshot of the game I am playing right now
Damn. You caught me, I was procrastinating instead of writing this post. Currently I have Super Meat Boy running on the sidelines. Here’s a screenshot that I definitely didn’t take from the internet because I don’t know how Steam’s weird and confusing screenshot system works.
16. The video game with the best cut scenes
Look, I hate to give The Last Of Us all the awards and accolades but it seems to be winning every battle here with tremendous confidence. In my mind, there isn’t a single game that even comes close to the immense quality and artistic importance of The Last Of Us‘ cutscenes. I am yet to play another game that outclasses them in terms of both graphics and emotional resonance. Grand Theft Auto V and Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag come very close though.
17. My favourite video game antagonist
Another easy one: Flowey from Undertale. I am fairly certain there isn’t another villain that has terrified me more than this bastard flower. This character genuinely gave me nightmares and uneasy nights. Undertale tricked me into thinking it was a fun, happy, humorous game, but by the end it was anything but.
18. My favourite video game protagonist
I think Nathan Drake is the very definition of a protagonist in any medium, be it film or game. A wise-cracking Indiana Jones with a genuinely interesting backstory, on top of being one of the best-written and iconic characters in all of video games. A true staple of Playstation gaming and yet another reason I should have chose Sony over Microsoft (stop me i make terrible life decisions).
19. A picture of a game setting I wish I lived in
Whichever empire is winning in Civilisation V. You could call that a cop-out, but I’d consider it fair, since it is technically a setting, just one which the player can’t actually enter. Screw it: I’ll admit, I couldn’t think of one to put here that isn’t Uncharted but I guess I should, so I’ll settle on the Tibetan village in Uncharted 2. The setting alone is simply gorgeous, and it was weirdly really upsetting to see it blown to shit later on.
20. My favourite video game genre
This one is unfair: video games are so broad a medium that it is a near impossible question. I love some RPGs, like The Witcher III and Undertale (depending on how you play it), but I’m also a huge fan of rogue-likes, such as Enter the Gungeon, Binding of Isaac and Crypt of the Necrodancer. Then again, some third-person shooters like The Last Of Us, Spec Ops: The Line and Grand Theft Auto V, puzzle games like Portal, but if I’m forced to pick one, it has to be 2D platformers. I suppose the reason would be that I like the rhythm of those games; as if this genre is the best way for creators to design their visions to a tee and have the player play the game precisely how it was intended. Or perhaps some of my favourite games ever just so happen to be 2D platformers – who knows.
21. The game with the best story
This is another toughie, as there are so many incredible tales and narratives explored in video game to choose from. I love the manipulative twists and turns of Spec Ops: The Line, I adore the hilariously heartbreaking Undertale and I suppose I’ll always have a soft spot for dumb ones like Uncharted 2. However, my favourite is most definitely that of The Walking Dead: Season One. I’m a big believer that simple stories can sometimes be the best ones, provided they are portrayed with enough care, love and attention. With this in mind, The Walking Dead most certainly seals it for me, with its likeable characters, tension-filled twists and heart-wrenching moral choices. Never has a game made me hate myself as much as this one.
22. A game sequel which disappointed me
Huh, convenient timing for me to rant about The Walking Dead: Season Two. One aspect I loved about Season One was how much love there clearly was for the project – the creators had a clear vision and a reason to make the game, and they pulled it off magnificently. Season Two, however, feels as though it’s simply making bank off of the success of the first instalment. Obviously there are some moments of Season Two which are undoubtedly great, and that last episode was honestly on par with the quality of Season One, but this one stinks of unneeded sequel.
23. The game I think has the best graphics or art style
This one was tough to because I found myself stuck between two options. The one standing on the 2nd place podium is INSIDE, whose artstyle was excellent, both visually and as an lovely accompaniment to the tone and themes of the game as a whole. However, it narrowly lost out to Ori and the Blind Forest and its stunning hand-drawn characters and environments. Everything feels living and breathing, from the plants to the trees to the enemies, all of whom had a genuine presence and thus felt more like a real threat. The main antagonist (whose name escapes me) genuinely scared me, from her twitchy head movements to her dishevelled individual feathers. ‘Gorgeous’ doesn’t do this game justice in the slightest.
24. Favourite Classic Game
Okay, cards on the table: I’m not much of a ‘classic games’ guy (as you may have guessed based on my picks so far). Only recently have I seriously begun branching out and trying out new games from different generations, and so far I am yet to play some of the true greats. I have Shadow of the Colossus downloaded onto my PS3 and I’m working my way through Bully, but for now the #1 game I can think of is also one of the first games I ever played: Spyro 2: Gateway To Glimmer. I acknowledge that this likely isn’t the best Spyro game by any means, and this pick is most definitely bias-packed, however it is my pick and after revisiting it, I can say it has held up fairly well, and I even jump into it now and again. Definitely one for the ages.
25. A game I plan on playing
Oh God, what to pick! There is so much that I have been meaning to catch up on, but I suppose the game I constantly mull over and somehow still haven’t gotten around to yet is Dark Souls. You have no idea how many people have bugged me about how life-changing and brilliant this game is, and the amount of times I’ve had to say, “nah, not sure it’s for me.” But, truth be told, I love stories told through subtleties, and as such Dark Souls should be my golden ticket to Timetonerdouttointelligentstorytellingsville. For now, though, we’ll wait and see.
26. Best voice acting in a game
Nolan North as Nathan Drake, next question.
27. Most epic scene in a video game ever
The dangling train scene in the beginning of Uncharted 2, next question.
28. My favourite game developer
This one wasn’t easy. My obvious first answer was Naughty Dog, since I’ve enjoyed every single game I’ve played from them (apart from parts of Uncharted, debatably), but as I thought about it, there are others that I love too. Telltale Games have their recurring bumps and niggles, but when they get something right, they get it so right. Rockstar continue to make incredible open-world action games and Rocksteady made one incredible Batman game and two good/great ones. However, the developer who consistently produce fantastic games and also happen to be one of the most-hated currently, is Valve. Portal is fantastic, Half-Life is fantastic, Team Fortress 2 is fantastic – it seems there isn’t a single genre at this point that Valve hasn’t set the bar for. I reckon they could create a poorly-rendered turd and still manage to develop some kind of intriguing mechanic to allow for dozens of hours of playtime. Admittedly, they are cruelly withholding information on any resemblance of a game right now, but be honest: if a new Valve game released tomorrow, I bet you would immediately rush to Steam and your opinions on the developer would change instantaneously as they created the greatest dating sim to ever grace humankind (or something else stupid, I dunno).
29. A game I thought I’d dislike, but ended up loving
I was incredibly skeptical going into Rayman Origins, since Rayman 3 is one of the first games I ever played, and so the franchise is quite important to me. Thankfully, Origins succeeded in being funny, well-designed, beautiful, brimming with personality, and of course, just a whole lot of goddamn fun. Rayman Legends, the direct sequel, was even better, so it’s safe to say things are looking up for that crazy, limbless bastard.
30. My favourite video game of all time
And now, the big one. What to pick, what to choose, what to say… there is one in mind that I know is my absolute favourite, my #1 best game ever created, ever to be witnessed by mankind, and that game is…
…a surprise more suited for another day. See ya 😉