Game Diary: DCGames Fest, Time Travelers, The Walking Dead

September 4, 2012

[The Rotation, a recap of the games I’ve been playing lately, is my weekly exercise to write for fun on a more consistent basis. Since DCGames Fest 2012 was this weekend, the first installation of The Rotation will be a bit of an anomaly. Hope you enjoy it!]

I had not realized I played so many different games—indoor and outdoor!—since I last wrote about Vampire Boyfriends.

DCGames Fest: Urban Games Galore

Admittedly, I do not go outside as much as I’d like to. I spend most of my workday indoors and often transit to an indoor happy hour or meeting, or head to my building’s gym before heading back to my apartment. The urban games I’ve played in the past year—and especially last Saturday—have been a great way to shake up this perpetually climate-controlled cycle and play some nontraditional sports.

DCGames Fest 2012 hosted local and nonlocal developers. To say we were incredibly blessed to have the support of such a diverse and talented group doesn’t even begin to cover how much fun I had playing their games. It’s difficult to pick favorites, but I really enjoyed what we played from Obscure Games’ porfolio: Barrage Revisited, Game of Posts (which I can’t quite claim to fully understand still) and a top-secret, to-be-announced one that will be played at Obscure Games’ Steel City Games Festival in October.

Something about Barrage Revisited, capture-the-flag and dodgeball with ecological undertones that plays like a real-life RTS game, immediately galvanizes your team. I didn’t know most people on my team, but right away, we all began scheming for the same goal of field domination. Two teams, with eight to nine people on each side, race to claim a majority of the five to six bases. You claim bases with one of your team’s five flags; attack by throwing the soft, lightweight “trashball” ammo (which is literally trash—a plastic bag balled into shape by duct tape); and you can heal players on your team who were downed by trashballs by carrying one of your team’s flags, linking arms with them and dragging them back to your base. The healing process is as silly as it sounds, considering you’re simultaneously trying to drag and direct a sweaty stranger toward a base (because you’re linking arms, rather than holding hands, you’re often facing in a different direction.

The learning curve for Game of Posts is more like a nearly vertical cliff. You need a seasoned veteran to show you the ins and outs of strategy, and thankfully, we had just that. Despite peppering the developers with questions while playing, I enjoyed Game of Posts because it reminded me of a newly fashioned version of stickball, which I used to play in my childhood neighborhood’s cul-de-sac. Playing it with the Washington Monument in the background was definitely a bonus.

Time Travelers [Vita]

I cannot wait for a localization of Level 5’s latest game. With the help of my electronic dictionary, I was able to understand even most of the specialized science talk in Japanese, but at my current business-level competency, I feel like I’m still missing out on some of the charm of director Jiro Ishii’s 300-page script. Even so, I found myself liking the characters I initially thought irritating, teared up a few times throughout the story and fought off a flow of tears during the final scenes. That Time Travelers commercial featuring Japanese women sobbing as they play the game is not hyperbole.

In an interview with NHK’s Imagine-Nation program, Jiro Ishii said the main question behind Time Travelers was if people would be happier if they could turn back time. I had finished the game by the time I saw this interview, and to be honest, I thought he would say something about the taking care of our world, environment and people around us. This is a very interesting question—personally, I’m certain I’m happy even without time-leaping abilities—but one I won’t elaborate on further to avoid any kind of spoilers.

One of the sappy things I especially like in Time Travelers was that its main cast of characters exhibit a near ridiculous degree of selflessness, even though they could be using their abilities to change the past for greedy purposes or simply self-preservation. Sacrifice isn’t so much a question as it is a necessary duty stemming from loving relationships, friendship and other things that make life worth living. The characters act that way because want to and they think it’s right, even amidst the chaos of a crumbling world. Yes, this is where this blog post takes a turn for the cheesiest, but in a world where there are many misunderstandings or competing interests and things can often turn ugly, I really enjoy this (unintended?) message.

Speaking of things turning ugly…

The Walking Dead: Episodes 1 and (Halfway Through) 2 [PSN]

I’m not proud to admit this, but I probably wouldn’t have tried The Walking Dead if it weren’t for the free episodes from my PSN+ subscription (which runs out in a few days D: ). Anything remotely horror-related gives me major heebie-jeebies. So I gathered my courage, optimized my apartment for maximum amounts of sunlight and played in my brightly lit room in the middle of the day.

Of course, now I can’t stop playing. Or thinking about how I would actually act in a post-apocolytic world The Walking Dead has unearthed thoughts and scenes that have sat hauntingly in the back of my mind since I finished Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” (In fact, if you’ve read this book, you’ll probably be able to predict how Episode 2 pans out even before the foreshadowing hits.)

I often try to walk the middle path and Switzerland my way through life, an approach The Walking Dead blatantly chastises me for in its second installment. Decision making in The Walking Dead is a delicate balance between pragmatism and empathy—and other times you’re just out of luck. I find that I make some of the especially “tough decisions” with little to no wavering. I’m 95 percent sure this is because, at the end of the day, The Walking Dead is still a simulated world where my hands in the real world stay relatively clean. Your conscience, however, might be a different story.

Episode 3 is looking verrrry tempting at this point, but I think I’m going to take a breather and dive back into my backlog. I scooped up a handful of games released in the past few years at a sale recently so you’ll probably be hearing more about Dragon Quest IX, Kirby’s Epic Yarn or (gulp) Just Dance 3 next time.

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