Tag Archives: Video Games

Dark Souls in Awesome: Life Lessons from Manus, Father of the Abyss

Note: How the fuck did I have sixty views yesterday? Isn’t that a new daily record? I haven’t been doing a damn thing lately on this blog. Eh, I’ll take it!

If you’d like another Dark Souls post, I talk about how good the game is here, and how shitty the game is here.

“I totally used the pendant! How the fuck I die?!” I shouted drunkenly at the TV. My death was total bullshit this time. Manus had about ⅛ of his life left and I fought him nearly perfectly only to die to some bullshit glitch or oversight in the game mechanics. He shot his black jizz-orbs and I used the magic pendant to block them but somehow a few made it through the supposedly impenetrable magic barrier to one-shot me.

So I sat the controller down and took a drink of my second or third gin and tonic, but counting was becoming difficult at the time. I was about ⅓ the way through the bottle of gin and feeling pretty damn good about life and determined. I was hell bent on beating Manus and while sore about dying for the 20th or so time didn’t let it truly get to me.

I respawned and did the minute long run back to Manus and died for the 21st or so time. And then I did it again; the long trek back to the bastard. Then I died to the shitty sorcerer guy on the way to the boss. 22. And then I ran back again and died by some stupid fucking mistake I made: I dodged his attack a fraction of a second to early and had the shit beaten out of me by his six or seven-hit combo. 23. 24. And so on to about 35. Not that I was counting anymore.

Manus, Father of the Abyss. The fucker himself. Image from here.

I talked about video games and fun before, kinda hinting at the idea that we’ve lost the idea that video games are fundamentally supposed to be enjoyable to play. So during all the bullshit dying and running back to the boss I asked myself if I was having fun. No, no I was not. It wasn’t fun or enjoyable at all. Realizing this I asked myself why I was even playing it in the first place. Wasn’t the point of relaxing after work and drinking to have fun and/or relax? Why would I deliberately force myself into having a shitty time?

The only thing keeping me going was knowledge of the fact that I’d totally stomp his ass eventually. I had beaten him two or three times years earlier and it was only a matter of time before I’d beat him again. This is what kept me tossing myself at him over and over despite little to no actual progress at GITting GUD fighting him.

And if that isn’t interesting to ponder, that despite not having fun and having a really terrible time something kept me going back. Some blind determination of a goal that I’d see through to the end no matter what. The first few times I played Dark Souls I would get really depressed — thinking ‘is this the boss that I’ll forever be stuck on?’ — would I have to quit the game and give up forever being a Dark Souls failure? I kept playing and eventually cracked the Dark Souls formula: hard work, persistence, determination, a total unwillingness to accept failure, and being emotionally detached from your failures. Dark Souls taught me to not be too hard on myself. To keep moving forward. A bland pursuit towards some shitty goal that you weren’t sure you’d even succeed at but you’d keep working at the goal anyways. Dark Souls taught me to just do whatever you want to do, suffer through the shit, and you’ll eventually get that tiny and addictive taste of victory. 

The first Dark Souls boss you beat makes you realize why the hell people play the game so obsessively; it gives you an immense sense of satisfaction when you finally win that I haven’t gotten from any other game. You used to suck, you used to get stomped by the boss instantly and you bested him through dedication and persistence. And that instance of victory when you toss the controller on the couch with shaking and sweaty hands and start jumping around the room cussing at the TV is a feeling you’ll never forget. It’s a pure adrenaline rush during the fight that fuels the glory of the eventual victory. It’s the taste of accomplishing a goal through weathering massive hardship.

But then you inevitably feel good, cocky, like you’ve finally ‘gotten it’ and won’t have any other problems for the rest of the game. Wrong. Soon you’ll run into another wall and your past victory seems like a joke. An accident. A fluke. Luck. That one was easy but now it’s not easy anymore. You try to tell yourself to remain positive and be persistent and learn (just like before, desperately trying to keep your positive mindset) but eventually that starts to wear thin. The next challenge is harder than the last and your mood deteriorates and you crave, no need, the next victory to keep you going. And if you keep at it you’ll eventually get there, but hell if it isn’t difficult to continually fail over and over again with little to no progress to show for it.

I was walking to Manus and got hit by the shitty sorcerer guy again and had to heal. Instead of 20 estus flasks (the healing item in the game) I only had 19, a seemingly minor issue that could end the successful run; you never know how the boss fight will go down and single estus might mean the difference between dying and surviving. But my drunken mind knew that even if I did fail and it wasn’t the successful run that I might learn something during the fight anyways. I might finally learn to dodge to the left instead of the right. Or I’d finally learn the perfect distance to keep him from spamming dangerous mid-ranged attacks. Even if the run was a likely going to end in failure, maybe I’d learn something along the way. Gain the tiny puzzle piece that would eventually lead to completing the puzzle that is beating Manus, Father of the Abyss.

And fuck learning is hard. True learning is hard. We’re all wired to do things a certain way and in Dark Souls it’s difficult to stop yourself from reflexively blocking certain bosses when you need to dodge. The more ingrained your habits are the harder they are to break, the more lessons you need beaten into you to fundamentally change yourself. Change and progress is slow but if you keep tossing yourself at the boss, even ten, twenty, or 100 times you’ll eventually beat it. You fail over and over, tweaking your technique slightly each time until you stumble blindly on the magical formula that somehow works. And sometimes it’s counterintuitive to what you initially though would work. Take Great Grey Wolf Sif for example: at first you want to stay as far away from him as possible — he’s a giant fucking wolf so it makes sense — but you eventually discover this technique is suicide. Sif is ultra aggressive at mid- to long-range and will beat you to a pulp. Counterintuitively, Sif is almost harmless if you stand right underneath him. You never would’ve realized this without failing countless times and trying new techniques. Eventually you realize you were doing it all wrong, but without doing it wrong you never would’ve discovered what to do right.

BEING UNDER HIM IS THE SAFEST PLACE TO BE? YOU SURE BRO?”

So lying in bed drunk trying to think of a thought provoking blog post I found myself thinking about Dark Souls and one of the final bosses I hadn’t beaten yet, Manus, Father of the Abyss. What a dickhead. What a goddamn roadblock. I was almost done with the game but he was in my way. I couldn’t end the game without beating him because that would be giving up and bitching out. Manus was my way forward and I couldn’t stop thinking about how I quit that night in failure. I was a loser. I didn’t have enough points in GIT and GUD. So now what? Nothing. I’d fight him later. I’d let my brain make a few connections and keep tossing myself at him in a few days. Manus was as good as dead, but dead in the future where the time to conquer him simply hadn’t come yet. I still had to learn. I still had to grow. I still had to deal with my personal flaws in the game. But progress is progress and I tried to not think about, to let thoughts not useless thoughts and self-hatred wither away. Then in a drunken haze it clicked why Dark Souls is such a good fucking game. It’s a perfect analogy of chasing your goals, growing as a person, and conquering the real enemy during your quest of life: yourself.

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Dark Souls is Awesome

For some reason my Apex Legends post is one of my highest and most consistently viewed posts. A few other of my video game posts (Mario Jump Rope, Stardew Valley, and three Zelda posts) also rank really well: apparently people really like reading about video games and I should probably try to write more about them. One problem though: this blog is about things that suck and I try not to play games that suck. My time is precious, there are thousands of games, games take a long time to play, so why would I fuck around with playing awful games?

My five-year-old daughter somehow found my Dark Souls game a few days ago and wanted to play it. I was amused. This kid was going to totally get her ass slapped in the game. I wasn’t wrong. She didn’t know how to lock onto enemies, use the shield, or even swing the sword. She walked away from the Undead Burg bonfire and instantly died. After a few minutes she finally killed a few enemies (without assistance from locking on) and would then get murdered. Progress at least, right?

After she gave up (maybe 15 minutes after starting) I began playing my own game file that I gave up on about a year ago. I had a pyromancer build and was stuck in the Catacombs of all places. The Catacombs is one of the “easier” areas of the game and popular theory assumes it’s meant to be completed earlier than later. I tried to do this instead of going there overpowered mid- to late-game like I usually do. But holy hell was that place a nightmare of level design. I was constantly getting lost and dying by falling, especially dying to those rolly skelly motherfuckers at the bottom on the way to the boss Pinwheel. I died about ten times maybe.

After that I branched out trying to figure out where the hell I had left off. The Butterfly was dead, the Gargoyles were dead, and the second bell hadn’t been rung yet. Down to Blighttown I went, via the Master Key of course. For the first time I tanked Quelaag which was very satisfying. I recalled how much trouble she gave me on my first playthrough and contrasted this with how easy she had become.

Storytelling aside here: Dark Souls is a great game. It’s probably one of my top five favorite games, maybe even in the top three. While it isn’t a flawless game, it’s about as close to flawless as you can get. The difficulty is fulfilling, the plot isn’t forced into your face, the gameplay is varied, and the worldbuilding, level design, sound design, and atmosphere are amazing. Let’s go through each one of these and give the game a proper dick sucking like it deserves.

Difficulty

Dark Souls is notably hard. I think this is misleading though. It’s challenging in an acceptable way whereas most games around during its release seemed to be too damn easy. It’s well-known that to survive Skyrim you only need to abuse healing potions. It’s just not a hard game, not that Skyrim and Dark Souls have much in common game-wise.

Not that Dark Souls doesn’t have plenty of unfair, bullshit difficulty moments and the rolly fuckers in the Catacombs are the perfect example of this. Or the Anor Londo archers: anyone who has played the game and made it that far know exactly what I’m talking about. They’re legendary with their immense total-bullshit factor. And let’s not forget the entire Capra Demon boss fight, or Smough and Ornstein’s Pornhub-esque tag-teaming of your innocent and unprepared character with their large clubs and spears. Or the stupid fucking bridge Drake. The game is brutal in many cruel ways.

I think what makes this bullshit acceptable is that it was purposefully done on behalf of the game developers. They added plenty of these bullshit-hard moments just because they could. While the game is mostly fair, these moments are what break you. They’re what make you persevere and beat the game. Those fucking Anor Londo archers are the definition of bullshit artificial difficulty, but they never feel cheaply done. They’re not nerfed weapons or terrible game mechanics nor are they large health pools just for the sake of having large health pools. The devs want to piss you off and this is a flaw on you not the game devs. Once you figure out how to relax, calm down, and deal with the bullshit in front of you, you can easily conquer any challenge the game tosses at you. And you feel great for doing so. Many times I’ve conquered something to realize my hands were literally shaking from adrenaline. I don’t recall any other games that can do this.

Varied Gameplay

Dark Souls offers a handful of starting classes such as a sorcerer, pyromancer, healers, and your normal typical warrior classes. This immediately gives you options and adds replay value to the game. A common view is that a sorcerer/magic build playthrough is the easiest mostly because you can stand as far away from the action as possible and hurl overpowered Crystal Soul Spears at the helpless enemies. A warrior build is probably the most difficult, forcing you to close the distance and do physical damage to your enemies.

But even besides those basic options you can play the game anyway you want. Some people eschew shields in favor of two-handing weapons and dodge-rolling attacks. Some people do “Soul Level 1” playthroughs, never leveling their character up during the course of the game. Even if you start off as a certain class, you can also play however you want depending on how you spend your points as you level up. A sorcerer at the start can be a tank mid-game if you dump points into certain attributes.

Hell, even the weapons have a wide variety to them. You can use a basic one-handed sword, or use some massive two-handed weapon like the Dragon’s Tooth or the Zweihander. Or you can use a spear/halberd/axe/whatever-the-fuck-else you want to use. Mix and match as you please. Wear whatever armor you want, use whatever spells/magic you want, and use whatever weapon you want. Play the game as you see fit. This creativity makes subsequent playthroughs of Dark Souls nearly always interesting and different.

The Plot

Differing with every other game ever made (mostly) Dark Souls has a plot that isn’t tossed into your face forcefully. In fact, Dark Souls doesn’t seem to give a fuck if you care about the plot at all, and this almost plays into the games favor. Ignoring the plot makes you a tool who simply walks around and kills shit blindly, so when you finish the game as an unknowing death machine it’s fitting in a way. Not to give away the ending, but completing it as a tool who doesn’t think is fitting with what you accomplish.

And if you care to learn about the plot you better enjoy puzzles because the plot is a puzzle. The only clues you get are item descriptions and sparse dialogue. The cutscenes in-game (besides the boss intro cutscenes) probably total three or four minutes at most. The dialogue in-game is probably at most two-pages long if you decided to type it all out. The item descriptions are just as vague and seemingly meaningless as everything else, but someone with a creative mind and attention to details can piece some things together which is massively fulfilling. Solaire’s fascination with the sun. The inscription on the Ring of the Sun’s Firstborn. The fact that the statue next to Lord Gwyn in Anor Londo is strangely missing points to a strange in-game fact and popular theory: Solaire is probably Lord Gwyn’s lost son. Why this is, who the hell knows, but even that jumping off point gives you many leads to ponder.

This is how nearly everything is in the game — vague, hidden, and uncertain — but how else would roaming around a dying decaying world be? It feels like you’re part of some massive story playing some important role and even you don’t know what that role is.

The Atmosphere

The subtle plot plays directly into the atmosphere of the game. The world is large, complex, and has a fascinating history but there are no clear signs of this history. No one is around to tell you what it all means. Only strange enemies in the woods, deformed people turned into spiders and other monstrosities, and crumbling (and strangely large) buildings scattered throughout the world. What does all of this mean, if anything?

You feel utterly alone in the world with few friends to talk to. The music is mostly non-existent except for a few key areas. Firelink Shrine and the Anor Londo Throne Room come to mind and they contrast well with the silence in the rest of the game. The bosses command their own impressive scores that raise your anxiety to hand-shaking and adrenaline-inducing levels. Playing for hours with no music and strolling through a fog gate to find a terrifying music track backing the boss charging at you is intense. Not all areas are quiet though: New Londo has a track that is so silent and subtle that you don’t notice it being there; if anything it makes you unconsciously even more terrified of the ghosts that appear out of nowhere and slit your throat or slice your character to pieces.

The stiffness of your character, the slowness with which they move, and the clunking of their armor all make you feel like an incapable and worthless person in some massive and harsh world. You’re not some superhero meant to save the world; you’re just another Undead trying to do whatever it is that you’re supposed to do. The world is cruel and doesn’t give a fuck about you. You feel alone, isolated, and nearly always in danger. The game is terrifying, depressing, oppressive and isolating, but sometimes it almost takes on a peaceful quality to it. A sort of resignation and acceptance with how dismal the in-game world truly is.

The Level Design

The level design of Dark Souls is where I think the game really shines. While the game does become rather linear later on, the first half of the game is immensely complex and interconnected.

I think this was mostly driven by the lack of teleporting/warping/fast travel until you get far enough into the game. This helps the game feel massive by requiring you to walk anywhere you need to go. Shortcuts are numerous and countless times I’d explore a certain direction only to discover it linking to a part of the world I never expected it to. The Undead Parish and Firelink shortcut is the best example I can think of. You start in Firelink, and walk all the way to the Undead Burg, fight the imposing Taurus Demon, and make your way to the Undead Parish in a long and arduous journey, especially for new players. In the Parish you find an elevator that appears to lead to a totally new and dangerous area and find yourself pleasantly surprised to discover you’re back at the Firelink Shrine. “Oh, I’m here?!” I clearly remember thinking the first time I discovered this. New London and Darkroot Basin via Valley of the Drakes. Blighttown to Firelink shrine. Darkroot Basin and the Undead Burg: everything is always closer than what you expect.

Take a look at this picture. I think it was created from actual Dark Soul’s game files on PC. The first time I saw it, it blew my mind away. I stole it from here, and while this person didn’t make the map himself (or the program) he does give credit where it’s due.

It’s a map of the entire game. Everything is interconnected and wraps around itself like a maze. You start the game in the red central area, and as you can see everything branches out from there. Some of the large branches are late-game areas which suffer from poor level design, but the entire early- mid-game levels are wonderfully interconnected and complex. Take a look at this map of the depths — one of the shittier areas of the game — and you can see the level design is still delightfully complex.

It’s a fucking maze! This design really makes you feel utterly and hopelessly lost. Stolen with love from here.

Dark Souls does have its flaws, notably the clunky gameplay at times, or the shitty framerate in Blighttown (which may have been fixed in the remastered version?), or the shitty late-game areas and bosses (Bed of Chaos, anyone?!?), or the fact that it’s really hard to get into initially, but I really think these don’t make the game bad at all. There’s so many positives that any flaws Dark Souls has can easily be overlooked. It’s a fantastic game and if you haven’t played it, well, get the fuck out there and play it!

Like this post and want more Dark Souls inspired posts? Here’s one about how Manus is a pain in the ass, and this one about some of the stupid shit about Dark Souls.

Video Game Endings Suck: The In-Game Existential Crisis

I can think of three general ways to end a video game. Firstly, there are games that don’t have a plot or a story to even end: think of multiplayer first-person shooter/battle royale games like Fortnite, Apex, or Black Ops IV. You can probably toss simulation and puzzle games into this category too; Microsoft Flight Simulator doesn’t have a plot or an ending. You just fly around and when you’re done you’re done. The same is true for Tetris. The second way to end a game is to, well, end it. These games have a plot and story and obviously the developers have to wrap it up somehow. There are a few ways to do this as well. They can end the game in a “harsh” where you can no longer play the game. Think of Dark Souls or Bioshock Infinite. When the game is over, the game’s over. There’s also the “open-ended” endings in this category where despite beating the main quest you are still able to play the game. Skyrim is a great example here. You kill Alduin, save the world, yet you can still wander around and do shit afterwards. These games have a clear ending to the main quest. There is a point where you’ve clearly beaten the game.

By far the worst way to end a game is to have no ending. I’m not talking about the plotless multiplayer games from above either: I’m talking narrative and story-driven open world games that are so open ended there is no ending. The Sims, Kerbal Space Program, Minecraft, and Stardew Valley are all great examples of games with no endings.

On the surface this all sounds like a great idea: with a game that is open and neverending you can play forever, right? No. These games do have endings even if they’re not explicitly stated; their endings are much more depressing when you think about them too much. These games end in the in-game equivalent of existential depression: the eventual realization that there is nothing else to do in the game. After the challenge is over, you have everything you could ever want or need, accomplished everything you’ve wanted to do, what option do you have besides giving up?

Not that these games lack story or gameplay progression which is usually in the form of crafting progression and/or unlocking items. The whole point of Minecraft survival mode seems to be unlocking items and finding materials. A good example are nether portals. To create these you usually need to craft a diamond pickaxe and diamond is one of the rarest things to find in the game. You need to bury deep within the ground to even find diamond, so unlocking a nether portal (to unlock all of the nether-unique items) takes some work. It gives you something to progress towards. Even if there is no actual narrative story, you have something to drive you further into the game.

Stardew Valley — the main inspiration of this post because it depicts a relatively believable story, farming — uses items to drive progression. The requirement to water your crops everyday adds a huge incentive to upgrade the watering can, which costs money and ores, which in turn requires a large farm, which itself requires an upgraded watering can, which requires exploring the mines, which requires the item to smelt ore. This singular goal — upgrade the watering can — is one of the primary struggles in Stardew Valley. As I hope you can understand now, upgrading the watering can involves hours of gameplay and progression. Carrying the watering mechanic to its limit are the sprinklers; items that automatically water crops daily without you doing a damn thing. Obviously they are a massively sought after item. The best sprinkler requires iridum, a ridiculously rare crafting ingredient that is most easily found in the Skull Cavern. Stardew Valley is fantastic by giving you natural gameplay incentive to progress throughout the game. Most items you unlock make the game easier or your farm more efficient. Progressing through the game is just a struggle to make your life easier!

These games work amazingly well until you run out of incentives to progress. Minecraft is especially terrible because once you’ve built yourself three golden castles towering into the sky, then what? You literally have everything you can even need or want in the game, so what do you do? The same is true in Stardew Valley as it’s another one of the “endless games” that you can play for literal years in-game with no completion. Once you’ve developed the community center and have millions of dollars, then what? When you have a massive farm that prints money all by itself with minimal effort and input from you, then what? After you’re married and had a few kids, then what? Eventually Stardew, and all games like this, reach a point where there is no incentive to play anymore. You’re bored with your in-game life and there isn’t anything else to drive you forward. Your in-game life literally becomes pointless and eventually you simply stop playing. It’s an in-game existential crisis. You question your purpose and what the meaning of all your progress even was. Sure you had fun playing the game, but now what?

It isn’t difficult to allow this dreaded outlook to bleed into your view of life in general. Usually success IRL is a lot more difficult than success in Stardew Valley (imagine trying to have a successful farm on your own IRL), Minecraft (imagine trying to live in the woods and survive for years with absolutely nothing except what you can personally create), or in any other “neverending” game, but the slight and ever-present sense of nihilism depicted in the end of these games always seems to underscore life itself. I just don’t think we ever get to that point in life where you can ask yourself “now what?” Life is so difficult, complicated, and multifaceted that I don’t think anyone can ever feel like they’ve “beaten life” like you can in a video game. There’s always something else to challenge you. But still, some part of me imagines this happening someday especially to certain people. Those who have a nice house, so much money that they don’t know what else to spend it on, and where life appears to have been beaten. I’m imagining this is how Olympic athletes and sports stars feel: their lives are so one-dimensional and filled with a singular goal that once it’s achieved — they win the gold medal or the Superbowl or whatever — that they might feel this crushing and final question of “now what?” that I always feel at the end of certain video games. I feel really sorry for these people and I don’t know if I’m lucky or not by thinking that I’ll never reach the end of what I want to accomplish in life. I don’t think I’ll ever be asking myself “now what,” but what if that means I never reached the end of the game? Like I hadn’t properly beaten it? What if that means I’ve failed?

Not Enough Time Sucks

“What do you want to do with your life?!?”

-Seemingly Everyone

My default way of brainstorming is apparently lying awake in bed at 3 a.m. It feels like I start every blog post off this way, because it’s true. Anyways, I was lying awake in bed at 3 a.m. and was in a good mood, shockingly. I was looking forward to the following day and all of the possibilities that it offered me. I had a good selection of books that I wanted to read (Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules, Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment, Six Pillars to Self-Esteem, Dune, and every other book in my backlog), and more so than just read them, I wanted to understand them. I’m talking about really absorbing the books, taking notes on them, and reading and reflecting on what I had read. I also wanted to do this with a handful of musical albums. As with reading, I want to absorb the songs and understand them. I want to look up lyrics and ponder how the words play over and off the underlying music. There’s just so much going on to appreciate! And there are other things I want/need to do: I have a 5k coming up in a few weeks that I’m totally ill-prepared for, I need to write…and oh yeah writing! I have like three stories I’m working on along with this blog and I need to proofread stuff, and figure out a way to actually self-promote any writing I do accomplish. Work is still a thing and I also want to maybe work on being a flight instructor as a career. Who knows what I want to do?

It’s at that point I realized that my problem isn’t lacking things I enjoy doing, it’s having the time and motivation to actually do things. There’s just not enough time in the day (or in general) for me to do all the things I want to do.

Many of the tasks need patience, time, and thought to accomplish. Sure, while I could sit down and write blog posts/chapters and proofread them quickly, the same isn’t true with reading a book or listening to music. To really appreciate these things you need to take your time with them. You need to let your mind properly process them. And more importantly you can’t multitask them. “Why don’t you just listen to music while you write?” you might ask. It’s because when you write you’re probably not listening to the music like you’d want to. I’m a firm believer that the human mind can only really focus on a singular thing at once and listening to music in a distracting environment does the music a disservice. To really enjoy music, a book, and to appreciate the subtleties of any of the arts, you need to do them solo. To really dive in and appreciate what is going on.

Obviously there needs to be some form of prioritizing here and I don’t even know where to begin. Ranking things based on importance seems silly; reading is just as important to me as music and I can’t pick only one. There is also the question of what I actually feel like doing. Sometimes I’d rather read than listen to music while other times the opposite is true. Movies seem to have an even more unique mindset I need to be in to watch them. It isn’t a simple matter of prioritizing, or maybe it is and I’m just awful at having self-control. Forcing yourself to sit down and listen to music when you want to read seems almost sacrilegious in a way. And I don’t know how to decide what I actually should be doing with my time.

To be ultra depressing you can scale this struggle of what to do up from hobbies to careers. I have a handful of job-like things I could be working towards, and these take even more time and effort than reading or listening to music does. I think this is the main reason why people never seem to know what they want to do in life, it’s such a big decision to make that I understand why people simply don’t make a decision. “What you want to do in life?” seems to be such a loaded question in so many ways. It seems to be asking what you want to constantly be working towards day after day in your free time and your work time. And when you look at it that way no wonder people can’t fucking pick. There is absolutely nothing in this world that I’d be happy doing eight or ten hours each day, every day. I like my variety and choosing “what I want to do” seems to force any and all variety out of life, even if it isn’t true in practice.

I also like to blame video games for altering my outlook on what I want to do. Video games make it easy to accomplish literally anything in the game world you want. It’s a matter of dedication and time but in such a way that you can actually make progress. All of my skills in Stardew Valley are maxed out: IRL you can never max out every possible skill available. Hell, even in games like Skyrim you can still do certain things outside of your expertise. Even a wizard-mage-magical person can shoot a bow and kill things, just not very well. And even if you can’t do everything in a single play through you can always play multiple characters and accomplish everything the game world has for you to accomplish. There is no choice of “What do I want to do?” because you can do everything.

Real life forces you to actually pick the things you want to do, and hell if there aren’t too many interesting things to do. I want to write fiction and nonfiction. I want to blog. I want to fly airplanes. I want to make music. I want to paint or something. I want to put solar panels all over the house. I want to read and listen to music and go sit outside and enjoy nature. I want to stop climate change. I want to start a grilled cheese food truck. I want to live in the woods. I want to be a Buddhist monk. But there are only 24 hours in the day, 365 days in a year, and a finite amount of years left in my life. I physically can’t do nearly everything I want to do, and narrowing things down seems like an affront to the variety of things that life has to offer. It’s not so much that there is nothing I want to do, in fact there is too much to do that I’m paralyzed by the choices offered to me! I guess it’s a good problem to have but dammit if knowing that I’ll never get to experience all the things I want to do doesn’t feel awful. I hate deciding. I hate making choices. Especially when these choices involve things as important as choosing what to do with the time given to me. If only I could choose to have more time. But that’s kinda like what the Genie in Aladdin said about wishing for more wishes. You can’t do it, it’s illegal.

Depression in Stardew Valley Sucks

A few days ago I became legitimately depressed while playing Stardew Valley. It was both kinda funny and sad at how awful I felt over the game; I didn’t know whether I should laugh about it or feel depressed by being depressed by a video game, let alone Stardew Valley. This incident also shined some light on my own personality and the lack of self confidence I have in life. This post will probably be deeper than you might expect from a Stardew Valley inspired post, but here goes.

Here’s where I give a shitty overview of the game in case people don’t know what I’m talking about: Stardew Valley is a game where you farm stuff and live in a tiny village. You can talk to, befriend, and even marry some of the residents in the town. I don’t know how important all of that is to the main story of the game, but the game does stress the aspect of community, which freshens it up from being only a farming simulator. Anyway, it’s also a cutesy, 2D top down, “kiddie game” as one of my friends described it. This almost makes the incident worse because as stated it’s a kids game: It shouldn’t punch me right in the feels, especially as directly as it did.

In-game Jeremy wandering the fuck around.

There’s a community dance (The Flower Dance) that happens in the forest around day 25. It’s an optional thing to do so whatever, no big deal. I went to the dance because I’m trying to be the friendly new guy in town who is trying his damndest to fit in and be accepted in the community. I should also say that up to this point in the game I’ve been a very diligent and socially-isolated farmer: I’m toiling away in my fields every single day either chopping wood for fertilizer, planting/harvesting/watering the crops, or running into town to buy more seeds. While some people might be fucking around socializing in town all day, I’m trying to turn my farm into the most fantastic farm ever and give the community something to be proud of. Because fuck the JoJa Corporation and Capitalism in general. I’m all about seizing the means of production, even if I haven’t told Mayor Lewis any of my intentions yet…

Pam is a beauty…

So Jeremy who is the new resident of Stardew Valley — let’s call him in-game Jeremy — shows up to the dance and starts talking to people. Some of the townsfolk he sort of knowns, and others appear to be new faces. Mayor Lewis allows in-game Jeremy to decide when the dance should actually start (since the game sort of revolves around in-game Jeremy for some terrible reason. Unbeknownst to in-game Jeremy he is, in fact, the player character. The story literally revolves around him). After talking to most of the people, in-game Jeremy realizes that he can ask people to dance with him. Oh shit! He accidentally discovered this when he asked the emo gothic guy to dance with him. Luckily he said no but it was still awkward. (“Hey bro, you want to dance with me? No homo tho, I just think those skinny jeans look really good on you. Your ass is…wow.”) In-game Jeremy then proceeds to confidently ask the females, being picky at first but then growing desperate and asking anyoneeven the trashy, alcoholic Pam but you can’t actually ask her — if they would like to dance. They usually replied with something like this:

“Oh! Oh! I’m sorry…I, er…have plans to ask someone else.”

“I’m flattered! But…no.”

“That’s flattering…but I’m gonna have to say no. Sorry.”

“I’ll be honest. I don’t want to dance with you.”

“Eww…No.”

Holy fuck game, thanks for the hefty dose of rejection. So in-game Jeremy, with no one to dance with, finally walks up to Mayor Lewis and gives him the go-ahead to start the dance. In game Jeremy wants to just get the stupid-ass dance over with so he can head back home and go to sleep. He’s sick of these people, their rejection, and their unappreciation of him, his hard work, and his farm.

After the dance in-game Jeremy goes to his house and goes to bed. It’s night and there’s nothing to do. He almost thought about watering the crops before bed, but fuck the plants too, they can wait. In the morning, in-game Jeremy stares at the crops and doesn’t actually want to do any work, but he sure as fuck isn’t going to town today to socialize with those assholes. He doesn’t want to work on the crops but there’s nothing else to do with his life so he begrudgingly gets to work. Watering. Weeding. Planting. Harvesting. Urgh. Not that anyone appreciates it. “Fuck this place,” In-game Jeremy says as he toils in the fields the day after the dance.

A few days later, still feeling shitty but not quite as shitty, in-game Jeremy realizes that it’s Emily’s birthday, and that he should give her a gift. Maybe a flower? After he picks a few flowers and heads into town he stops and thinks, “Is she even going to like this? She probably won’t even give a shit if I give her a gift or not. If anything it’ll be the wrong gift and she’ll hate me.” In-game Jeremy goes up to the “shipping bin” where you place products your farm has created, and chucks the flowers into that. Emily has no idea in-game Jeremy was even going to give her a gift and goes about her day knowing nothing of the conflict that occured in in-game Jeremy’s head or the gift that she almost received. In-game Jeremy continues to sulk and overthink things as he tends to his garden daily. “Pretty sure all those fuckers hate me,” he thinks to himself.

The next day in-game Jeremy finally drags his ass into town. He ran into Haley, a young and beautiful blonde lady who lives in town. He tries talking to her, just to say “Hi” or “How’s your day going?” The game informed in-game Jeremy that: 

HALEY IS IGNORING YOU

“Maybe you should, like, kill yourself? No one likes you or your stupid farm!”

Jesus Christ, Stardew Valley is depressing as fuck.

In-game Jeremy then stops into Pierre’s store to find some rope for a noose, but sadly Pierre doesn’t sell rope. Not that in-game Jeremy has unlocked the noose-crafting recipe anyways. In-game Jeremy, as depressed as he is, is hopelessly stuck in the world with no way to escape.

While I was trying to strike a clear difference between me — IRL Jeremy — and my avatar in-game (in-game Jeremy) I found it kinda difficult to do in practice. When you play a game that is as absorbing as Stardew you kinda become the player character and this is a good thing. (“This game really makes you feel like Spiderman!”) While in-game Jeremy felt like shit over being rejected by everyone in town, it also became difficult for IRL Jeremy to also not feel rejected, even if there was no reason to feel that way. While IRL Jeremy was laughing at the brutal and consistent nature of in-game Jeremy’s rejection something inside was also being stirred around. The vague shadow of repressed memories, fears of total social rejection, and loneliness from high school/college swam at the corners of my IRL consciousness. What if everyone I know actually hates me? What do people say about me when I’m not around? Am I really as awkward as I think I am? Does anyone actually appreciate me? It was kinda scary. Faced with the “fun, kid-friendly” story and graphics of Stardew Valley, it almost seemed surreal in a way. This game was making me feel like shit about my own life and had me questioning all my real relationships and my worth in the world.

I also felt bitter and angry towards the damn in-game townsfolk; these people aren’t even real and I was pissed at them! Logically it made sense that no one wanted to dance with in-game Jeremy because he was the new guy in town who has only been around for 25 days (or like 2.5 months if you take Stardew time in terms of a year) and who wasn’t being social at all and made zero effort to interact with anyone. The townsfolk basically saw in-game Jeremy as a recluse farmer who never talks to people but then shows up and creepily asks every person available to dance. No shit they said no! If I was a video game NPC like these people I’d also say no too! In-game Jeremy — you socially-inept idiot — you have to make actual effort in relationships for them to work. And if that isn’t hitting things a bit close for IRL Jeremy as well. I found myself questioning how much effort I put into friendships and if I expect other people to do all the work. Or do I just show up and expect people to like me when I do nothing likeable at all? Do I show enough interest in other people? Or am I self-centered asshole that metaphorically is a recluse farmer who tends his fields all day? Once again I wasn’t expecting goddamn life lessons from Stardew but here we are.

One of the highlights of the game so far. I was pissed and fishing off this bridge just because, and Abigail walked up and stood next to me. She stood there for hours watching me fish and neither of us said anything. In-game Jeremy was utterly focused on catching those damn fish and gave no outward sign of his appreciation, but he loved her for being there keeping him company.

I’m complaining here but you have to give the game credit: usually people play video games just to kill time, to have fun, or to escape the real world for a little bit. To feel some progress in a game world to counteract the utter difficulty and lack of progress in the real world. It’s a rare game that somehow acts as a mirror and puts yourself up there on display for you to analyze, especially if said game is usually viewed as a “kids game.” This allows you to lower your defenses and to be vulnerable without you being aware that it’s happening, and not realizing that you’re about to get utterly punched in the feels so aggressively that it resonates with your actual self. Stardew Valley made in-game Jeremy feel like a loser who would never properly fit in with the townsfolk even if he really wanted to, and that made IRL Jeremy also feel the same way, constantly searching for approval, community, and appreciation. The depressive mood didn’t last for long, maybe twenty minutes or so, but it was twenty minutes that I was not prepared for at all. It was an eye-opening experience that I wasn’t at all ready for. Fuck you Stardew Valley for being such a good game.

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Goofing Around (In Video Games) Sucks

In my last post I mentioned that I 100%ed Super Mario 64. This is a heavily nostalgic game for me and countless others and while it hasn’t aged magnificently over the years it still remains a classic. It retains its charm and is still an enjoyable game to play if you can look past the shitty grafix from the late 90s. But I realized something upon completing the game that I didn’t realize before: Mario 64 is a really short game. Surely part of this is due to me having played it before, but I don’t think this has much to do with why it feels so short. It’s been so long since I played Mario 64 to completion I had almost forgotten where most of the stars were and had to “rediscover them” even if I had a vague hint of a memory where the star was. (I still remember the Turok master cheat code though: nthgthdgdcrtdtrk. Looks like something out of a Lovecraft story.) So while the game was easier than it was when I first played it, it wasn’t just a feat in repetition; I really had to discover the game all over again.

I found myself wondering how, as a kid, I was able to pour so much time into this game as I did. I was able to knock out all 120 stars within a week as an adult, and even if I had played the game before, I assume a new player could still beat the game quickly. It’s just not a long or complicated game. How did my childhood-self find this game so massive and consuming that I could literally play it for hours after school, day-after-day for months on end? Bowser had his ass kicked and I had all 120 stars, so what was I doing endlessly playing the game?

Outside of a few other minor things (being a bored kid, no internet, etc.), I assume it was because I dicked around in the game. I should explain that a bit more. This means that outside of the actual game-dictated challenges I would find other bullshit challenges to set for myself. It was total immersion in the world where you’re just playing around and having fun with the game itself. Grabbing the stars is what you’re supposed to do but dicking around is ignoring what you’re supposed to do to do random bullshit. Somehow kid-me excelled at this while adult-me is pretty terrible at it.

Bob-omb Battlefield

The first level, the iconic Bob-omb Battlefield, had a turtle whose shell you could ride like a skateboard. It was fun as hell to grab his shell and challenge yourself to do stupid shit with it: could you surf up to the top of the mountain without hitting anything and losing his shell? Could you use the shell to race Koopa the Quick? You could also grab the Wing Cap, jump into cannons, and fly around for the hell of it. Each level offered so much to do but only if you’re creative enough to play around with the game. This was even better if you had friends to play with. You could all take turns having races to the top of the Bob-omb mountain, or see who could get Baby Penguin to his mom is the fastest time possible (or who could drop him off the cliff in the most cruel/hilarious way). Your imagination was the only limit to the fun you could have in Mario 64 as well as any other game.

Shell surfin’. I crashed a few seconds after this attempting to make it to the top of the mountain.

Something changed because now I don’t have the time or patience to fuck around in video games. I don’t know if it’s adulthood itself or aspects of adulthood like having a job and a tighter schedule that changed things, but I find myself being very “goal oriented” when I play video games. It does take all the fun out of them too. I view the game as just that: a game. Games are now just a big and sometimes complex puzzle: you figure out what you need to do to achieve a goal and you do that. Find key, go to the next room. Kill enemies, get to the end of the level. Find enough moons to fight Bowser. Etc. It’s basic problem solving now: discover problem, research the problem, conquer the problem. Complete the quest and beat the game. And then onto the next game. It’s depressing.

Flyin’.

As I was writing this post, the word playing popped into my head. Dicking around in video games, as I’ve been explaining it, sounds a lot like playing. Kids will grab toys and play with them not for a purpose but just because. I even looked up the definition of the word play and guess what it is?

Engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.”

-The Damn Dictionary

So, fuck, it’s not that adult-me is overly goal-oriented or that kid-me was better at making up random shit to do, kid me was better at playing while adult me fucking sucks at it. Making this even worse is that when adult-me is “playing” video games, I’m probably not actually playing them. I’m always chasing a set of goals or in-game challenges and am not playing for the pure enjoyment or recreation of it. Or my personal enjoyment and recreation while playing a video game is in beating the game and not playing the game. Holy fuck, I didn’t think there’d be an epiphany in this post, but there it is. Kid-me played video games and adult-me beats video games.

This entire post reflects back on the last post about 100%ing Nintendo games. In that post I argued that Nintendo is kinda badass by not giving you any real rewards for going above-and-beyond in your video gaming duties. They rely on your own self-motivation to accomplish all of the extra bullshit you need to 100% one of their games. They’re going to give you the shit to do but not reward you for it. This post is sort of the same thing: to properly play a video game you also need to go outside of what the game itself gives you for goals/accomplishments and find your own way towards fun. This is the essence of playing — doing something for your own enjoyment with zero practical reason to motivate you — and is a huge reason why I enjoyed video games and could pour hours into them as a kid. I was playing and not simply trying to chase goals. As adult gamers we might become overly “goal-oriented” and miss the whole reason for playing a game: to have fun! But to have fun you need to be creative and do something for the sake of doing it, just like 100% video games entails. So the next time I play a video game I’m going to try to sit back, relax, and actually enjoy the experience instead of checking off a list of items that the game wants me to do. Being an adult is kinda shitty in case you didn’t know that yet.

The Mario Jump Rope Challenge Sucks: The Hardest Moon in the Game

I played Super Mario 64 when it was released in like 1996 or something. Yeah, I’m kinda old. In case you didn’t know, the main plot of the game involves you collecting power stars to open up locked areas of the castle in an effort to — wait for it — save Princess Peach from Bowser. The thing is you only need 70 moons to actually beat the game while the game offers a total of 120 stars. This might be the first Mario game where there is this idea of collectable items. It’s a natural tendency for us OCD-prone people to need all 120 of those damn stars to finally 100% complete the game. The leads directly to my current problem…

Super Mario Odyssey — the newest and possibly greatest game in the Mario series — has the very same DNA as Mario 64 except things are turned up to 11 this time. Instead of needing 70 stars to beat the game you need like 120 stars moons. There’s a second ending and more levels that are unlocked when you obtain 500 stars moons while the game holds a total of an amazing 880 unique stars moons! (Really it’s like 830 unique moons as some of these are “multi-moons” that count as three.) Compare this to Mario 64 where you need about 60% of the moons to beat the game. Odyssey requires only 124 moons — or about 15% of the total moons — to beat the game. More levels are unlocked at 250 and 500 moons: 30% and 60% of the total, respectively. My point is Odyssey requires a smaller percentage of moons to actually progress the game leaving a goddamn mountain of moons to find if you want to 100% it.

And of course you want to 100% the game because you have such fond memories of meeting Yoshi on top of Peach’s Castle after getting the 120 stars in Mario 64. It was the crowning achievement of your elementary school days so, naturally, wouldn’t it be cool to 100% Mario Odyssey as well? Mario 64 ingrained us with that drive to 100% Mario games and it isn’t any different in Odyssey. There’s only one problem with that: Odyssey is hard.

I laugh when people think Mario is a kids game. Mario is a kids game but it’s also a cruel and harsh Nintendo game and sometimes Nintendo simply doesn’t fuck around. Sometimes Nintendo makes a game that’s very cute and friendly towards kids but totally fucks people up that push the game to its limit. And that’s exactly what happens when you want to 100% the game. The game asks — no requires — a precise level of platforming if you want that 100%.

There are certain stars moons in this game that are total bullshit to obtain. Some final levels are basically repeats of earlier levels where the devs take out (or insert) some really cruel mechanic. One level requires you to dodge poison plants (as you’ve done previously) but they make the walkway above the poison lake invisible (“Invisible Road: Rush!” moon). In one final level you repeat a timed level that features the motor scooter except they remove the scooter and you have to roll as fast as possible (“Vanishing Road Rush”). The margin of error on that level is only like a second or so. Another level requires you to do like 12 perfectly timed long jumps in a row (“Breakdown Road” moons) where a single mistake or slightly mistimed jump means you fail the level.

There’s also the volleyball challenge where you must hit a ball 100 times (“Hero of the Beach!”). This sounds really trivial except you get to start over at the beginning if you fuck up. Making it up to 50 isn’t hard so replaying the entire first half is torture. I think it took me 2 or 3 tries so it wasn’t too bad I guess. It was one of those challenges that is kinda a cheap sort of challenge. It just takes time smacking a ball back and forth. It’s monotonous.

But the crowning achievement of Odyssey’s bullshit-moons is the infernal jump rope challenge moon (“Jump Rope Genius”). The first moon of this challenge in New Donk City is easy enough and triggers after only 20 jumps; it’s the second moon that is impossible to get. You need 100 perfectly timed jumps to unlock this moon and it seems to be nearly impossible even if it does seem stupidly trivial at first.

A good example of the rope moving fast enough to display individual frames with Cappy looking kinda surprised.

As with the volleyball challenge, as you progress the speed of the rope increases to insane levels. I’ve personally made it up to about 60 jumps and by this time the rope is moving so fast I can’t physically hit the jump button fast enough. Mario doesn’t make it down to the ground quickly enough to start another jump! Gravity isn’t strong enough for me to make these jumps! The A button physically cant be hit fast enough by my finger to jump over the rope! You can literally see the single frames of the rope as it flashes across the screen as quickly as it does: it ceases to be a smooth motion at that rate. 30 frames-per-second doesn’t even survive the jump rope challenge. But Nintendo, a friendly game company that makes easy kid bullshit, forces this onto you if you’re crazy enough to 100% Mario Odyssey. It’s insane and I suppose I’m insaner by trying to 100% a Nintendo game in the first place. Remember taking pictures in Wind Waker? That is what purgatory would be like.

I’m pretty sure this will be the last thing I do in the game as I just can’t make any progress on it and quickly give up to find other moons. The bullshit challenges I mentioned earlier are easier (mostly because they’re real challenges) and I think I’ve beaten the invisible plant poison level already. Hell, I even think the marathon Darker Side of the Moon level will be easier (and more cheeseable) than the stupid jump rope moon is; at least you can use Assist Mode it if you really want to. But Rope? Rope isn’t having none of that shit.

The real technique to getting this goddamn moon.

In all honesty there is a way to glitch the game by using the MARIO letters in New Donk City, but even that appears to be quite a challenge. What you do is clip a letter outside of its boundary and simply sit on it while the rope clips through the letter. With you on top of the letter or hanging on the side the game registers you “jumping over” the rope and this is why all the high scores for the jump rope challenge are all 99999: people cheesed the game with a glitch. But in all honesty getting the moon via glitch seems more rewarding and satisfying than trying to jump that fucking rope 100 times. Let’s just pretend the moon jump rope champion really is titled “MARIO Letters Out-of-Bounds CLIP CHAMPION!” because that’s much more fitting. Fuck jump rope.

Mario basking in the glory of his newly-acquired moon as the rope clips through his foot.

Note: If you read the post on my birthday you know that I actually beat this horrible challenge via the MARIO letter glitch. Truthfully, I don’t even feel guilty about it because glitching the letters out of bounds was way more fun and fulfilling than tapping a perfectly 100+ times would’ve been. I have no guilt and you shouldn’t either if you try to 100% the game.

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Zelda Intros Suck: Twilight Princess

(As you can see, I nearly gave up on the header image. I couldn’t be bothered to play the game again to get a decent picture so I screenshotted some dudes YouTube video of the intro cutscene. I couldn’t be bothered to properly caption it so I tossed up some Comic Sans because why the fuck not? I just didn’t care.)

In my last post I shit all over the The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword because it had an insufferable introduction filled with dialogue-tutorials and it was frustrating having to “play” for over an hour just to get to play the game. Even after the intro I was constantly interrupted by whatever  my sword and couldn’t enjoy the game at all. I also hinted that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess was just as bad, if not worse, although I didn’t elaborate on it because that would’ve turned into a very long post. So here it is! Why Twilight Princess — at least the introduction — is fucking awful.

I’ll recap the introduction the best I can because it’s been awhile since I played the game. This is probably good because you can see how nothing coherent happened, at least when you try to recall it. It goes something like this: There was something about kids and a sword and a slingshot and a shield and somewhere along that mess you turn into a fucking dog with some wierd whateverthefuck Midna following you around. You fish and get some random lantern from a stoner and can buy oil from a parrot. You can use grass to call hawks to get mice or something. Twilight descends, monsters appear, and three or four kids get kidnapped. And then they make you herd goats. Twice. Eventually, after an hour and a half I made it to the first fucking dungeon after saving some kids and finding some glow-ball thingys. After an hour and a half. I legit timed myself too. The beginning was just a mess. I had no idea what was going on.

The game catches its stride after that (be wolf, find glowy things, be human, beat dungeon) but holy fuck they could probably design a game intro better than that. I understand the idea of plot and world building and tutorials at the beginning but Twilight Princess beat it all into the ground with about 20 random things tossed at you in an hour. It’s a fucking mess and in that first hour you’re seriously wondering what the fuck, if anything, is actually going on. I think I’ve started Twilight Princess like 3 or 4 times and only finished it once. The beginning is that fucking bad. I thought Dark Souls was hard to get into…

I guess I have this idea of “the Great Zelda Game” in my head. The last game I played was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and while I shit upon it a little bit for the Master Sword “quest” it’s an amazingly wonderful and beautiful game. Nostalgia goggles aside it’ll probably be one of my favorite Zelda games ever. At the very least its intro blows Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword out of the water because of one primary reason: there isn’t an intro. Whereas those two beat you over the head for over an hour with tutorials, cutscenes, and random shit like fishing, Breath of the Wild says “Hey, grab that tablet over there. Have some clothes. Here’s how you climb a cliff. See ya!” And you get to play the game right away. The one dude that can give you some idea of plot or purpose doesn’t say a whole lot and you can just ignore him if you want. The game doesn’t force you into the plot at all, and when it does you’re about an hour or so into the game and can deal with a short cutscene or two. Breath of the Wild succeeds because it tosses you into the game and the world without any explanation. It’s a big and mysterious world because the game didn’t explain a damn thing to you and you’re left to explore and discover things on your own just as intended.

What about Ocarina of Time, the definitive “Great Zelda Game”? The Great Dickhead Deku Tree needs to see you. Dildo Mido won’t let you pass until you have a sword and a shield. You find those in about 5 or ten minutes and BAM you’re in the first fucking dungeon after the Great Dickhead Tree explains a few things to you. You get to play the game right away.

What about Wind Waker? You overslept and need to go to Granny’s house because it’s your birthday. Something happens with your sister and you save her and BAM! You’re on an adventure with some pirates and you get to play the game right away. Sure the game doesn’t really pick up steam until you get your ass off Windfall Island but at least you feel like you’re progressing the game. Wind Waker has its flaws but they sure don’t occur in the first fucking hour of the game.

Twilight Princess

Well…yeah…

And don’t even get me started on Majora’s Mask! You’re walking in the woods about a minute into the game and BAM! Some dickhead steals your horse and makes your day very shitty by trying to end the world. Within a minute or two of starting you’re playing the goddamned game.

Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword beat you endlessly over the head with total bullshit before you even get to play the game. It’s frustrating especially as a person replaying the games because I have fond memories of them as great games. But I’d like to play the game and not watch an hour of cutscenes, random tutorials, and pointless plot elements at the start of the game. This is probably made worse because the last game I played in the Zelda series was Breath of the Wild, a masterpiece of minimalistic design that didn’t beat you over the head with anything (other than Koroks). Even compared to older Zelda games the introductions of these two are bloated and do nothing to let you have fun playing the games. While they’re great games at their cores, you need to actually get to the gameplay to find the greatness! I loved the games and will probably power through to get to the actual game, but fuck, those intros almost broke my fucking spirit and will to play. They fucking Suck.

Zelda Intros Suck: Skyward Sword

My three year old daughter is on a Mario kick. I recently beat Super Mario Odyssey and she was there to witness the final battle and ending cutscene (which was marvelous). Her being a little gamer it’s no surprise that she’s fucking nuts about Princess Peach now. That’s all she talks about: “Dada I wanna save the Peach! I wanna save the Princess Peach!” Okay. So I thought it might be fun to hook up the Nintendo Wii so she can save “The Peach” in Super Mario Galaxy. After all it has motion controls and that will be fun and easy for a kid, right?

This isn’t about Mario though. What happened was I hooked up the Wii, she played a bit, and then wanted me to play. My game in Mario Galaxy was so far along that I didn’t feel like dicking around with the upper level stars that I had left. Coming back to games after awhile is hard because you’re not used to the difficulty curve anymore. You lost all points in GIT and GUD. Anyways, I decided to hop over to Twilight Princess and tried playing that trainwreck of a game. I had an older file where I had just beaten the first dungeon (forest temple? The Great Dickhead Tree? Idk.) and was headed to Kakariko Village. I was teleported back to wherever to find some stupid-ass bridge and I had zero patience to play that game anymore. More on that in a future post. So I tried starting a new game in Skyward Sword.

Skyward Sword was a Zelda game I played quite some time ago while working both full time and part time jobs. Life was shitty then and I don’t recall the game. Like at all. Something about a bird and some clouds and a sword controlled by the Wiimote. I remember some of the game but it’s like a vague dream recalled hours after you wake up where you have a general idea of what happened but everything is really fuzzy. It would be nice to play again, and would be a change from that shitty Twilight Princess ordeal that I just wasn’t in the mood for.

So how did Skyward Sword go? It was awful. Apparently all the first hour of Skyward Sword is fucking cutscenes and dialogue that you cannot skip. You can’t even make the text appear quickly; it slowly types out letter after letter and there’s nothing you can do about it. Anyways, the game does this, I’m assuming, so you get involved in the plot which circles around Zelda and Links “friendship” and some fucker Gaston Groose who is jealous over the whole ordeal.

Like, whatever. You start the game and there are tutorials all over the place “disguised” as dialogue. You talk to some fucker and he makes you get a cat thing he lost. This is so you can be taught how to climb and move boxes. What a dickhead. After that you sit through about ten minutes of cutscene with you and Zelda talking and looking around at clouds. You find your flying ostrich bro is gone and discover Gaston Groose is behind it (SURPRISE!) and you have to find it. You need a sword and the game forces you through another tutorial by showing you how to get carpal tunnel syndrome from the Wiimote. Finally (rather eventually), you find the bird and the game gets underway. Except not really. Not yet. Fuck you Link: more dialogue for you to hear. You do a race, win the race, pass out, and Zelda is lost. Now is the time you get to save her! Her dad, the dude in charge of the entire village tells you to go find her, so you do. Or you try to. You walk outside your room, ready to finally start the goddamn game and some stupid-ass NPC stops you for more dialogue! He gives you a satchel he made and suggests you buy a shield. Fuck that guy, I didn’t buy a shield and took off for the world under the clouds immediately. Fuck the shield, I’ll play the entire game without one if I have to. I’ve played Bloodborne so I can fucking dodge the shitty Zelda enemies with no problem. When he stopped me and started talking I literally yelled at the TV “Can I play the fucking game yet?? Come the fuck on!”

Gaston

This is the entire first hour of the game…

BUT BEFORE ALL OF THAT you have to get another sword and deal with even more dialogue. It’s such a goddamn pain. Even once you make it under the clouds there’s even more talking with some old lady and anything that is alive. I seriously played for an hour and a half without doing a damn thing.

Your sword also interrupts you every 2 minutes to say something stupid and obvious. “Do you know you don’t have a shield? That’s a bad idea. I highly suggest you acquire one before you proceed.” FUCK YOU I DON’T NEED A SHIELD FI THANKS THO. If you’re low on hearts she states the fact, rudely interrupting whatever world-saving quest you’re on. The beeping the game makes to signal you being low on health isn’t enough apparently and she has to point it out.

Fi

“…were you aware that I’m a massive pain in the ass?”

I mean it works okay the first time you play the game because it’s new and you don’t know what to expect, but fucking hell, it’s brutal sitting through a second time. Even as brutal as sitting through Skyward Sword’s introduction was there was one game that somehow topped that…

Remember Twilight Princess? And how I griped about it earlier? Yeah…That’ll be in another post in a few days because this one was surprisingly long for me to complain about a video game.

Life Sucks (as a Video Game)

The author Kurt Vonnegut touched upon the idea that everyone thinks they’re the protagonist of the world they’re in and everyone else are NPCs — the people that only exist to serve the protagonist. Check this out from his novel Breakfast of Champions:

I thought Beatrice Keedsler had joined hands with other old-fashioned storytellers to make people believe that life had leading characters, minor characters, significant details, insignificant details, that it had lessons to be learned, tests to be passed, and a beginning, a middle, and an end.

He then goes on to blame the current state of society on this flawed outlook promoted by stories, writers, and other artists. It’s a decent book, Check it Out!

Stevie!

I don’t think we all have that extremely dark view of society but I do think most of us view ourselves as “the primary hero” while other people are just sort of there. I also think the only people that really get outside of that worldview are probably Buddhist monks or something. This obviously becomes a problem because, well, we’re probably not the main character and are most likely random NPCs ourselves. By thinking you’re the hero and living a pretty average and mundane life you think you’re a total failure. You’re not saving the world so what are you even doing?

Video games are guilty of promoting this worldview and self-image in everyone the same as other forms of entertainment. In games you usually play as a hero and do some hero shit like saving the world or defeating some Evil Power™. This obviously isn’t realistic and considering that, what would a game be like that was as accurate to real life as possible? Many games have mechanics that simulate parts of real life (the Grand Theft Auto series comes to mind) but those occurs on a superficial level. Sure you can drive cars like in real life but the lack of consequences in GTA breaks any real comparison. The Sims do a good job too, especially with the game-breaking existential crisis that inevitably occurs after playing for too long. Real life also has much more due to chance while games put you in charge of nearly everything. So, what would that game look like?

To start, it’d be boring and no one would want to play it. The Life Game would consists of you doing some stupid and boring task for hours and hours while earning hardly any useful in-game cash. Everything you need to buy is also really expensive. Instead of buying the best car ever you can only afford a shitty, 15-year-old vehicle to get you to and from work just so you can continue to make shitty money. Food also takes up the rest of the cash you earn. It’d be hours upon hours of absolute nothingness to just buy food and other essential items.

As the game starts you could randomly die as well. This is mostly dependent upon where you’re born which is totally due to chance. You could spawn in a poor country and die in the first few minutes thanks to malnourishment or disease and there’s nothing you can do to change your fate. Once you start the game that’s what you are given. You could end up in a decent area where healthcare is abundant, but you could also, by chance, end up in a shithole and die within a short timespan.

You could be born into a family that has tons of money, but that would be really rare. Once again you don’t have any choice in all of that because it’s all random. Being rich would also take all the fun out of The Life Game because you can do whatever you want with little to no challenge. At least starting off poor gives you a challenge somewhat. If you’re not starting off in abject poverty that is.

Another fun aspect of The Life Game is that you could randomly die at anytime. You could be in the safest area possible but someone could randomly kill you with a bus or a gun or whatever. Sometimes even airplanes fall onto your house although that is reserved for only the most unluckiest people. The same is true for lightning. But the fact is that anyone could die at anytime with little to no warning. The Life Game doesn’t care about what quest your on or how important you are or how much cash you have and you’ll just randomly die.

The most interesting aspect of The Life Game would be the lack of a main quest. You’d think this might be fun because you can “make your own goals” but after a few hours the gameplay just lacks meaning. It’ll be like Minecraft or The Sims where you have a pretty decent time exploring and learning the game mechanics and creating useless bullshit, but then the lack of a main quest gets to you. Eventually in Minecraft or The Sims you look around the world and realize this is it. Then you quit playing because you’re bored and the game is meaningless. The same happens in Kerbal Space Program after you’ve explored the entire solar system. There simply isn’t anything left to do. The same would happen in The Life Game because there’s no reason or purpose for you to be there. There are side quests to accomplish but those are usually shitty by giving you little reward for completing them or by being too hard to actually accomplish in the first place. You could sell your furniture on Craigslist or get a PhD in astrodynamics for example. Or you could blog about how shitty The Life Game is. But you don’t have to because they’re side quests. There is no world to save, no overarching evil to destroy, and no princess to save. You could just do nothing. So what do you even do in this game?

And one last thing: The Life Game only lets you play once. Some people think that you might get to play multiple times but they don’t know that for sure. If you’re the unlucky soul that dies in the first five minutes of the game, well, too bad but that’s all you get! The ones who make it farther into the game should feel special for doing so well, but since the game is so shitty no one really feels good about it. Hell, some people even quit the game on purpose. That’s how terrible The Life Game is.

If life was a video game is would fucking Suck. There wouldn’t be a main quest and the difficulty curve would be ridiculous but in a really lame and cheap way. You’d just die randomly and without good cause. Sometimes you’d just die as soon as you started the game, once again without cause or reason. Some people spawn in ridiculously privileged ways and others are spawned in ridiculously unfair conditions. You dick around trying to keep yourself busy but since there isn’t a main quest nothing ever seems very pointful. The Life Game Sucks.