Archive for February, 2012

Kickle cubicle, ZiGGURAT, Torchlight, ff xiii-2

In a house in a little area right by where Jandek lives a boy played a game for a day and fell in love. kickle cubicle was a brief dream for me. I still don’t remember why it had to be returned so quickly, but sitting in my brother’s room the game had serious charm. Zelda never quite pulled me in, Super Mario was frustrating, but Kickle Cubicle was my first experience with a game that’s logic seemed intimately familiar. From the way the kickle explodes out of a swarm of hearts to the absurdity of the engine, the game is a nonstop trance of puzzling machines that seem significantly more simple than their behaviors suggest. Emergence is the chemical process where in two or more things produce behaviors that the original ingredients don’t possesses (btw in the middle of delanda’s synthetic reason right now) Kickle Cubicle is often one of those games where the behavior of a slime, a hammer, and a spring can lead to numerous possibilities. I won’t say that Kickle Cubicle is great, but it did manage to marry post Zelda enemy bopping with the push and pull of genuinely engaging level design, but what I primarily remember is that it made me think, something that the puzzles in Zelda or the moments of lolo I played never did. The nes version is available online at the first link, the mame emulation of the Arcade version is also out there. I also like how the leader boards have queer names on them as if some gay couple ensconced in a Japanese hovel in the eighties collected the rom and made it available for mame to emulate.

P.s. have not tired Solomon’s key, but will soon. Also kickle cubicle and bomberman were main line examples of addictive game play when I was young.

ZiGGURAT is the latest game from Tim Rodgers and its a little surprising, because the controls suck. Ziggurat requires you swipe the bottom of the screen to rotate your character’s weapon or you can use an angry birds like sling shot mode. While with time I will probably get used to it, I just wanna touch the screen, have the gun track my finger’s x and y cords and then let go with my projectile of death. Sadly, this is more of an emulation of one of those pong paddles that came with the Atari 2600. Now please look I’ve been harassed by assholes before, and Mr. Rodgers will probably stumble upon this review so let me get to the positives, or what I like about ZiGGURAT. First the game essentially channels the moments of intense play in mega man in thirty second increments, which is awesome. Despite the control scheme I found myself playing it in the taxi this morning and even now it nibbles at the subconscious, a world of chaos is a click away. Two the chip tune music is nice too. I don’t actually understand why indie games are so often consciously retro, but Ziggurat is perhaps a nice example of this nostalgia, it doesn’t require you to spend tons of time playing a full length game to do your reminiscing, rather it gives you the pivotal moment of a mega man game in a seconds worth of game play. That is worth 99 cents. Btw do support it, Mr. Rodgers is quite passionate about his games and this is a step towards further friends based improvisations on the iTunes store and also be sure before you lick to hope that he gets a girlfriend, a hot lesbian girlfriend who dresses in anime outfits and makes out with her girlfriends in private moments before the tentacles strike….

Torchlight
Steam sale! Bought this with the 75% off coupon and just what like a month or two till torchlight 2 comes out and let me tell you… This game is annoying. You see unlike Lara Croft and the Gaurdian of Light which frees you from moving with the mouse torchlight restricts everything to the mouse… Except of course spell casting, item management, and everything else. Torchlight works like this, you left click to move or to attack, your right click for an additional attack or spell. The problem is that playing a ranged character becomes ├╝ber annoying because you run away with your meek ranged based archerer only to turn around and then if you happen to not quite click the enemy chasi you then RUN BACK TOWARDS THE GUY YOU ARE TRYING TO AVOID. This is a serious flaw, one that it turns out you deal with by holding shift, but then holding shift you can’t move and only aim. Compare this to Lara Croft in which you run around with the keys and then use the mouse to hurtle spears, bullets, what have you at the enemy. That control scheme works, Torchlight though, despite these short comings is what I usually play at home these days. Once you get past the carpel tunnel inducing click and play the game becomes at heart one of deep customization. My little archer started in an absolutely horrible leather cap which I replaced with a magically powered hair accessory before upgrading to an enchanting and enchanted Russian navigator’s cap. We now take down gigantic tree folks with ease and swing through lion hearted monsters while unleashing some impressive spells and saving select loot for the moment you get the matching accessories for them. Who thought that point of click of consumerism could be replaced by the shoot and gun of diablo? That’s what these games really are, they’re like magic packs, you open one you get a shitty rare u can’t trade but someone will buy it for nothing and maybe if you open a few more you’ll get the cards you need. Someone needs to make a mall based after Diablo where your hard earned cash is spent in blunt kicks and the swing of the mace. All that sweet schwag coming down on you. I guess I continue to play Torchlight for reasons very different than league of legends, LoL I keep finding new things in the play, Torchlight just gives me more to consume. A little strategy is involved with the enemies, swordsmen with shields need to run from, big spiders avoid and whittle down, but for the most part this isn’t really a game of skill or adrenaline, rather it is just shopping. It’s
Iike having a little mall in your pc, one that you wonder around shooting and maiming in, and then you rob the bodies. J.G. Ballard should have played this game.

Still trying to finish Final Fantasy 3 on iOS, watched the entirety of ff xiii-2 on YouTube and loved it! Really liked Serah and the romance angle the game is increasingly taking also the Snow ending was awesome. Going to pick up Chaos Rings Omega when I get a chance or my steam coupons expire… Also Ghost Trick which is now out on iOS is great and really enjoying the demo. Will probably get the full game. Anyway, my life through software increasingly seems to be me life, which brings up another thing. My coworkers have all been commenting on my iPad addiction, for the past two weeks I have showed up everyday with a Bluetooth headset and a YouTube full of final fantasy xii-2 videos. Not even playing the game, simply going through tetra ninja’s walk through took up at least 20 hours of my life. The game became a very real story and one that actually touched me in a way an anime hasn’t in years although it’s still at times cheesy. But what occurred to me is that we’re increasingly living in virtuality almost all the time. The cost of a nearly endless supply of world of Warcraft is small and as terra nova has noticed the total amount of work done in virtual worlds is increasingly reaching the same level of as the actual economy. Mmos aside, the rate of production of games now exceeds the time required to consume them. Watching ff xiii-2 took almost two weeks out of my programming practice and steam at home takes even more. Passions come and go and post final fantasy YouTube is bereft of anything to attract me for awhile, but games continue to rain in and their worlds still feel fleeting. This is where ff xiii-2’s endings come in hand, the game can actually end multiple different ways. While this has been tried before something in the variety of endings suggests the staggering possibility of the narrative. These possibilities also lend the game consequence, it begins to feel as if the narrative is weighty and full of holes, sockets, places to hang a spare lesson or two. What it also suggests is that the future of these games is story, ones where players spin off from each other and separate teams of digital weavers keep their audiences occupied all within a single virtual world, just one that splinters and portals into different experiences. Kinda like the historia crux itself, the act of playing many modern games creates parallel worlds, paradoxes, and other things. Consequence is important in a game, and in ff xiii-2 I believe u can still go back and get all the endings, in fact I know you can because if u get all of them u get a special secret ending, but the necessity of games to be likable often means that they don’t let players get locked into the consequences of their actions, we like replayability, the ephemeralness of the digital world, in skyrim I can still go back and kill the monk on top of the world if I so choose, but I have never made that choice, I wanted him to live, And the idea of replaying that much game is tedious. Anyway, ff is less a game and more the skin of a movie on which you surf. I like ‘m, but only because I like the stories (ff 9 I loved ff 7 bored me), it doesn’t quite have the open narrative structure that skyrim has, but what it does have is worthy of a game and better than many RPGs out there. I really wish they would release it on pc.

February 22, 2012 at 2:36 am Leave a comment

Kawaii feminism

When I made the unfortunate, and rather stupid, decision of moving to Japan I crated all my stuff up in a big box, marked “magic dragon island” on it and then sent it off with my body a few days behind. My beneficiaries in Japan received it, made no mention of it and when I arrived and was promptly fired from my job I left it there to sick to pick it up along with the 80 kilos of luggage I was carrying at the time. In my time in Japan I was consistently told I liked anime. Now, there’s a problem with this comment. I grew up in Houston, home of the anime nerds. We had fan subs before there were fan subs, we had anime shops well probably like a decade after L.A. or something, but we had the internet and me and my younger brother somehow managed to get entire fansubbed libraries of things like Evangelion and Vision of Escaflowne. I loved ‘m. I watched them constantly and the stories of ennui with in, the suffering of these bug eyed folks touched me. I remember somewhere towards the end of an all night barrage of Vision of Escaflowne something snapped and that was it. I was no longer into anime. Haven’t watched a series or dug a single ova since then. That was it, no more anime.

Now humans are sadly complicated things. I love anime design, I really do. School girls, hyper-cute “kawaii” (I believe that is the word) shit is awesome. I love it, but I’m not into anime. The plots don’t grab, the stories don’t move me, I just don’t feel the connection. Convincing Japanese people of this proved impossible. A simple set of stereotypes guided their actions. They could not be swayed, possibly because aggravating someone like me is the whole point. But anyway, years pass by, things trickle under the bridge and along comes Fortune Summoners. A demo on steam of a Japanese bug eyed cutesy all girl, mega-girly game. It’s awesome. Is it as awesome as Princess Maker or the DS dating sims? I don’t know, but the game has ok-ish combat. You unsheathe your sword, up to parry, and take out some slimes. The girl has ambivalent physics, jumps soar you over gaps, but also leave long skids. The game doesn’t control quite right on a mouse and keyboard to my liking, but I have a wii-mote and will try that.

Now did a group of Japanese developers across the pacific have the same experience as me growing up? No, they didn’t. They continued to fascinate over girly books and school girls with magical powers. They continued to dream. Now they apparently make low budget fantasies for trans-gender obsessed geeks. Fortune Summoners reeks of indie production values. It is a niche game in a niche game in which women are not just unspokenly superior, but cram in the hallways of its magical school and venture out to taken on foolish quests by mischievous boys. Bilitis is not a sexual action here, it dictates the very fabric of society. Cuteness becomes a virtue, and our protagonist and her new found friend share an instantaneous bond so deep it might as well be out of an Agnis Varda film. Kawaii feminism runs deep, but is its unspoken pedophilia a notion to the audience’s own unspoken inability to grow up? Does the otaku dig the kids cuz he’s still a kid himself? Maturity requires experiences and geeks, dateless and often friendless, never grow with the same maturity as others. They never learn about tricks and traps as quickly, we’re condemned like Heidegger to always be stepping into fox holes. My point is initial relationships, friendships, the bonds of socializing are often denied to the fan base that makes up a great part of these games. If I’m understanding correctly there are women biologically and culturally assigned to that sex who dig these games, but I feel like for me this is a form of extimacy. The doll like girl is out, the Alice of my dreams she has never had a relationship, never blossomed into sexual maturity, never puked at a party after a guy roofied her, never felt violated by a man (possibly one like me), she is still pure in a way I see myself. Is kawaii for male fans there fore a means of storing femininity outside the self? Is it a wish for a self that missplaced in sexuality goes unfullfilled? And is the fan boys like myself behind forming a kinda kawaii feminism? A sisterhood of the girly things?

Madonna has recently decided to inaugurate two other divas to her stage. Miss Nicki Minaj and Ms M.I.A. are now sharing stage with the sophistication of the material girl. By sophistication, I mean look at the performance in this video. Madonna is well beyond the simple hunks that defend her. M.I.A. is able to command the stage with out sexuality… well for me at least. Her politics and imagination are enough to fill a song.

The lesson behind these two gender performances (Madonna and M.I.A. Miss Minaj I will leave for another day) is that a woman’s politics or self is primary and sexuality secondary. Despite all her prolific eroticism, Madonna always remains aloof from domination, even when she desires. What these women are passing between themselves are dialogues more complex than anything found in kawaii. Having been assigned to women, these three have found jubilation in gender messages that exert a surprisingly hefty weight on the patriarchy (especially in M.I.A.’s case). And what’s with those dancers in the Madonna video? Faded out anime cheerleaders, they exist faceless and slightly creepy especially in the light of three women so articulate and complex. And perhaps that’s the point, nothing in M.I.A.’s performance or Madonna’s suggests that such storehouses of the feminine have anything to do with being a woman.

February 5, 2012 at 2:06 pm Leave a comment


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