When I first put together my new PC one of the first games that I played was the 2012 release Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. Chivalry is a brutish, gory depiction of medieval combat that focuses on fast-paced, first person action without a ton of refinement. This was a follow-up to an earlier mod for Half-Life 2 called Age of Chivalry, only pushed as a commercial product. The relative success of 2010’s Mount & Blade: Warband was the catalyst of sort for this genre of games, which has included games like War of the Roses, War of the Vikings and the Chivalry expansion Deadliest Warrior.
If you were to ask me if the Witness was a retro throwback game I’d probably say no, as would creator Jonathan Blow. According to what the industry deems as a “retro throwback” games need to be heavily stylized like the games of yesteryear, looking like they were ripped from the NES or SNES, featuring chiptune tracks and simple mechanics. Because really, that’s what old games were, right? Old games were platformers, top down shooters, side scrollers and whatever else we’ve gotten from indie developers trying to recapture their collective youths. Yet, the deluge of these throwbacks has left me with a bit of retrovertigo. I’m over it. Every month’s PlayStation Plus offerings get added to my library but rarely ever downloaded because, seriously, I don’t need to keep snidely revisiting my childhood at this point. I’ve done it and been doing it for years.
The first expansion pack of the Magic: The Gathering series I purchased was Fallen Empires back in 1994. Yeah, that's how long I've been playing. That's two years after Shaquille O'Neal was drafted to the NBA -- and for some odd reason Shaq being drafted has been my reference point to everything that happened in the 90s.
There were a lot of us born in the 80’s and raised in the 90’s, in fact, sometimes we get labeled with weird generational names that don’t seem to really fit, or be told how we may or may not act. I’m probably too old to be a Millennial, but weird thinkpieces describe me as falling within some sort of constrained generational structure, but whatever. What many who are now in their early 30’s or late 20’s will have in common is that Nintendo meant something to a lot of us growing up. In fact, Nintendo was an integral part in how we were raised. Somewhere along the way that changed, though, we grew up, still played games, but the monolithic Nintendo logo no longer mattered.
I sit on my couch and CNN is projecting that Donald Trump is winning Florida with 32% of the vote already in. He’s up by nearly 100,000 votes and I can only assume that Donald will win the delegates from America's most fucked up state. Wolf Blitzer keeps giving me “Key Race Alerts” with even single increase in the percents. Clinton is winning, too. With all this bad news, my mind wanders to my gaming past. It causes me to think of my gaming present and future and how all of this could’ve never happened if it wasn’t for my wife -- my ‘azucar morena’ --- and somewhat my brother.
Interviewing Van Orton and getting to publish their art on The Stoned Gamer has to be one of the most fulfilling things we've ever done. Their work is basically the dreams of every 80s kid condensed to a style of art that can only be described as Analogpunk. Yeah, we invented that word -- heck we even registered AnalogPunk.net. Just imagine humanity never got passed the analog-centric time of 1987 and the digital age never occurred. At the same time, technology is equivalent with our current technology. In an Analogpunk world, smart phones come equipped with tubed TV monitors instead of LCDs and everything is controlled through knobs and switches -- touch screens are non-existent. Walkmans and car tape decks reign supreme, and the internet can only be accessed at a 56k baud speed due to analog modems. Oh, and everyone's computer looks like this.
Back in the 90’s, a time before the internet reigned supreme over everything and opinions were rampant, determining the quality of a game was next to impossible. Growing up whenever I’d get dragged to a store with my mom I’d run off towards the electronics section of said store and immerse myself in whatever was available to me. Some stores had kiosks set up where you could play games, others would have magazine racks chock full of gaming magazines. This was a time before gaming websites with daily update schedules and confusing #ethics.
The GDC has been stealing headlines this week and with it has been a lot of talk about Virtual Reality. VR is predicted to be the next hotness in not only gaming, but the entertainment world as a whole. Without a doubt VR has some incredible possible applications that could change the way that we live our lives. That sounds like crazy talk, doesn’t it? But it’s true. Who needs an 80” television when you can sit in a goddamned movie theater in your VR headset? But yet, all of this talk about VR isn’t making me think of the future as much as it’s making me think of the past. My past, in particular.
When trying to encapsulate a lot of the “movements” that have been happening in gaming recently, I’ve at times had difficulty finding the words. A part of that is because when I was growing up gaming was still very much a niche thing. Sure, Nintendo caught on like wildfire in the 90’s and names like Mario, Zelda and Sonic became commonplace, but for children. Now, no doubt, adults played games as well. Parties at my parents’ friends’ homes with their families usually involved us playing videogames with other kids and usually the dads, sometimes the moms and any other stray adults that were around.
It’s funny, the first story that resonated with me on this website was a piece by Zeus who spoke in detail about his battle with debilitating anxiety and the positive effect that gaming played in his life.
Most of us who have been playing games for a while know that feeling of a video game high. In fact, it’s fairly similar to that same high you can get from being immersed in a really great book. The first time that I ever felt that high is actually kind of embarrassing, really. You see, I learned to read at a young age, but it wasn’t really out of love for reading or whatever, it was to read the bible. My mom truly believed that strongly in assuring that if something happened I wouldn’t go to hell that I learned to read early because of the bible. But that, sure as hell, wasn’t my first book high. My first book high came from -- okay this is really embarrassing -- a Ninja Turtles book. Not a comic book, like, a children’s book that we had hanging around my classroom in Kindergarten.
For those psychonauts out there that were brave enough to take enough LSD to the point in which they sincerely questioned if they took too much, there needs to be some type of trophy to salute you. We all know it's impossible to overdose on LSD, unless you fear death from sheer astonishment.
I’ve always been an advocate for leaving home, for packing your shit up and moving as far away from home as you can manage to fend for yourself. Something about the concept of home and having people that you know and love around can serve as a bit of a safety net. I’m not saying that if you don’t leave home you’ve somehow done something wrong, but if there is even a minor nomadic urge inside of you, there’s really no choice. You have to leave. That’s what I did in late 2006 at the tender age of 23. I packed up my clothes, my guitar, my modded PS2 with a few spindles of discs ranging from games to movies to burned data, a laptop and $300. Okay, maybe there is a Nintendo DS in there as well, but it’s a lot less romantic to list everything.
Okay, so I'm not going to talk about being a chick in the gamer world - because I'm not. I'm not a competitive gamer. I'm a non-male with an Xbox One who finds modern gaming bloody complex and often impossible. Shall we go to an example?
When I was a kid what always struck me was that older people did play videogames. This was, of course, in the 90’s when games were kind of weird still, but a lot of my friends’ dads were playing games, but they were usually games that none of us cared about. Mario. Zelda. Sonic. Mega Man. These were the things that really mattered, but those weird PC strategy games that older dudes were playing? While cool, who had time for that? The rise in popularity of the shooter online put an exclamation point on that for most of us. Why play something slow like Age of Empires when there were games like Unreal on the market?
Modern America is fucking mortifying in a lot of ways. Growing up I had often joked -- citing the David Bowie song of the same name -- that I was afraid of Americans. I was a teenager who was super into Nine Inch Nails at the time and Trent Reznor’s loose involvement with David Bowie was the thing that finally pushed me to discover someone that would go on to be one of my biggest inspirations in life, so go figure. But a lot of what pushed me in that direction in the first place was seeing the world of pop culture and feeling alienated from it. At the time it felt like it was intended solely for younger girls or people that were just, well, a bit too normal. I needed a way to express myself in what felt like me.
As someone who has been an adult for a while, has had his own place for a while and thusly the space and means to game handheld gaming wasn’t a huge focus of mine for a while. To be blunt, while I had some good memories of handheld games growing up, there were a lot of games that were just hot garbage, failed, downgraded ports or alternative takes on popular games that were difficult to play. The Game Boy Advance seemed to be where that started to change, with the quality of what developers could fit into a game on a smaller screen becoming more and more in depth thanks to technological advances.
I won’t sugar-coat things and come right out and say this; Fallout 4 was a disappointment in a lot of ways. The apocalyptic open world game from Bethesda had a lot of hype before release and many of us had incredibly fond memories from Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas prior. We’re talking hundreds of lost hours, heaps of talking points and stories of incredible, “only-in-Fallout” moments that made Fallout 4 seem like the second-coming. Yet while Fallout 4 felt like a welcome return early on, after a short while that lustre wore off and the game felt pretty hollow inside. Sure, some are still playing it to death and what mods have been released have given the game a bit of new life, but I just can’t imagine myself returning any time soon to the largely-hollow feeling Boston inside of Fallout 4.
When I think of beloved series that fans flock to no matter how much it costs or how little actual, new content is introduced the Street Fighter series comes to mind. In fact, each game feels like a series in its own at times, with hardcore Street Fighter fans picking up every edition that drops and being happy about it. Yet, the release of Street Fighter V has left a lot of fans angry and wondering what has happened to their beloved series. Street Fighter, much like games like Star Wars Battlefront, Destiny and many others came out with the promise of there being much, much more content down the line thanks to DLC, both paid and free.
The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human is a side scrolling 2D masterpiece that grips you as soon as you start it. Be honest with the darkness test at the beginning of the game because g’damn this game has reminded me that I am, in fact, afraid of the dark. The gameplay reminds me of Megaman - you’ll see why. The bosses require many attempts to beat… which is not how I usually like my games, but I have been known to grind through any sort of gameplay in search of a unique storyline.
To sit around the warm glow of Keyan Shokraie's (creator of Dank Tank) incomprehensibly powerful gaming rig and get stoned to the point where words can't formulate from your mouth is a sight to behold. Keyan visited The Stoned Gamer office to show off his very own Mod Tank, and we still can't believe what we witnessed. It just didn't make any sense -- we were seeing the impossible unfold before our eyes. Games like The Witcher 3 being zoomed close to infinity without losing a shred of detail, Fallout 4 running with every mod at framerates so high that no living creature on planet Earth could fully adsorb. This all happened, and we interviewed Keyan about it. Be sure to follow Dank Tank on Instagram @danktank_official.
After I finish watching a Guy Ritchie film, a week follows where I use terms like ‘bloke’, ‘bollocks’, and ‘rubbish.’ Guy Ritchie knows how to make British gangsters look so damn cool. I’ll sit on my couch and start imagining plans to infiltrate my local bookies. Every British crime film should list ‘delusions of grandeur’ as a side-effect. I don’t think any of my friends have the ‘minerals’ to actually join me on one of these criminal outings because a lot of them have kids, which is tragic. I need something to quell these criminal aspirations before I re-watch Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrells -- there will be no holding me back.
That's right, six free indie games are being delivered to you compliments of the same technology that you use to illegally download UFC fights.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world more inhospitable than Antarctica, the Amazon jungle, and California? Vortex: The Gateway simulates what your experience would probably be like and, let’s be honest, it’s terrifying. I would love to go on a rant on why the current culture of safe spaces is undoubtedly the sole cause our next dimensions would-be demise, but I have a more interesting game to talk about. It’s not like you would heed my warnings, anyway.
This past weekend EA hosted yet another double XP weekend for Star Wars: Battlefront and while I was sick for most of it, when I did remember to actually sit down and play the game it felt more like a chore than fun. Why is that? Because that game sorely lacks in content, making a single sitting with the game just the same maps, same factions, same weapons and same vehicles without fail. Even the fun Fighter Squadron mode that allows you to battle it out in the same few maps as the rest of the game instead allows you to solely focus on small fighter-based combat. The problem is that there are only two factions and that both factions only have two ships available, with the differences between some of them being negligible (Tie Fighter and Tie Interceptor), or hilarious (the X-Wing lacks in maneuverability compared to the A-Wing).
A part of me gets pretty bummed out when I get really mad at someone who went out there, created something on their own (or with a small team) and really tried. I know how that can be, how difficult it is and how maddening it can be after you’ve been working on something for a long time and keep asking, “but is this any good?” Friends and family will probably be nice no matter what, someone might be critical here and there but it will be such a sharp, stark contrast to all of the glowing reviews that everyone else has given you that it’s hard to look at it and say, “well shit, this is right, I need to do a ton more work on this.”
You never truly realize how insignificant your existence is until you place a black hole near our solar system and watch everything, including light, be engulfed in its void in just a few decades.
When you ask someone who loves the XCOM games what their favorite part is you’ll probably get a few different answers in return. There’s a lot to love about the tactical XCOM series, but for me, it’s always been the weird bonds that you build with your squad. XCOM 2 does a wonderful job of letting you build your own game through it’s character pool, allowing you to create and customize your characters while also giving them backstories and as much detail as you want.
Life is Strange is a game that has been sort of divisive among the gaming populace. Some view it as a bold, brave venture out into the world of interactive storytelling. Some view some of the depictions of the very real situations in the game as “troubling,” mostly because it was a game about teen girls written by grown ass white guys that goes to some eye-rolling places. Others get upset about feminist storylines invading their games, while some feminists are saying, “hey, this isn’t my game, bub.” Overall, there’s been a lot of talk over Life is Strange and a lot of that talk is what finally drove me to actually play said game.
I tried learning Arabic once. I learned a lot of words but I lacked the knowledge to form complete sentences. My communication skills could’ve been compared to a 3 year-old Arabic child. The sole reason for my quest of learning another language was the assumption that it would get me a lot of Arabic tail. It didn’t work out as I had hope. Yet… yet, through my lessons, I found a true appreciation for Islamic architecture, music, and culture. Because my aspirations of breaking the heart of some beautiful Islamic girl never came to fruition, my interest in the language waned and i instead stuck to learning Hindi and chasing Indian women.
One of the names in game development that I’ve always considered a heavy has been Peter Molyneux. Molyneux is perhaps best known as the guy behind a lot of those “god simulation” games, like Populous, Black & White, Theme Park and Godus. Well, he was also responsible for the Fable series, but that really wasn’t a god sim, was it? Anyway, the founding of his new company, 22cans and departure from Lionhead and Microsoft made some big waves within the game industry. What was one of the most influential developers of our time going to do now? The answer was Godus and Godus was and still is kind of disappointing.
While I have absolutely no experience, I am sure that being a first time parent is one of the most daunting things in life. You have the sole responsibility of a new human being. The most frightening thing, at least to me, is that so many things can kill your newborn baby. Pets, falling objects, minor bumps, exposure to Julia Stiles movies have all been blamed for newborn baby deaths. It’s no laughing matter. We have to get rid of Julia Stiles and her work once and for all.
I’m sure by now you’ve heard about Jonathan’s Blow’s new game, the Witness. If not, it’s a puzzler from the mind of Jonathan Blow, the creator of the Xbox Live Arcade megahit Braid from 2008. Blow’s game has been in development for years now, with some even getting a hands on of an early version of the game as far back as 2010, so needless to say, this game has been in development for quite a while and was a labor of love for Blow and the team that he assembled. The reviews are in and all that anyone can really say is that it’s fantastic, challenging and worthy of the $40 price tag.