Question of the Week #16: What Gaming Swag are You Most Proud to Own?

Swag. It’s a thing. Between hundreds of popular series, a multitude of gaming platforms, numerous fictional universes, and even e-sports teams to represent, gamers have no shortage of awesome memorabilia to collect! Shirts. Figurines. Replicas. Statues. If it exists in a game, there is almost certainly swag of it.

What kind of gaming memorabilia do you collect, and what is your favorite piece you own? Let me know as much or as little as you want in the comments! I love hearing about other peoples’ collections!

-Andrew

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Detective Pikachu: I Choose You!

Pokémon: Detective Pikachu might be one of the biggest surprises in entertainment history. Now, hold up a second! Let me explain. I’m not trying to oversell this movie with unearned praise and biased opinions: after all, I scoffed at the very notion of this movie when it was first announced. How could a movie about Pokémon look and sound, much less BE, anything close to good? Well…just like this.

Detective Pikachu’s biggest strength is that it doesn’t try to be something it isn’t. Pokémon is a cartoony, fantasy universe and all the weirdness that is seen in the games and anime comes out full force on the big screen! I was floored by the number of Pokémon that were included in this movie. It was tantamount to sensory overload at times. Growlithe, Machamp, and Golurk mingle with civilians in crowded streets. Pidgeot and Taillow perch themselves atop street signs. Bulbasaur roam through verdant valleys as a herd, while the lesser-known Morelull drift above with a phosphorescent glow. Even weirder Pokémon like Snubble and Lickitung leave their mark with angry glares and…uh…lots of saliva.

Bulbasaur is so adorable in this movie!!!

The animation in Detective Pikachu is quite simply top of the line! Creatures pop off the screen with realistic fur, shining scales, and eerily life-like eyes…in most cases. Their movement is fluid and perfectly suited to whatever animals or creatures they draw inspiration from. And all of their noises from the anime, all the self-titled battlecries and shouts in every scenario, make themselves present here. You won’t mistake any of these Pokémon for being real animals on the screen, but the work that went into making every Pokémon a near-tangible being is noteworthy!

I was surprised at how well thought out the story of Detective Pikachu was, given the penchant for video games to have TERRIBLE movie adaptations. The plot follows Tim Goodman as he travels to Ryme City after his father’s death. Ryme City is a place where Pokémon and people live side by side in harmony: no Pokéballs, no battles. Tim’s father was a detective for the RCPD, and it’s up to his son to unravel the enigma of his passing alongside his Pokémon companion: none other than Pikachu (Because OF COURSE it had to be a Pikachu)! While the story isn’t anything mind-blowing, it is never boring or patronizing: something impressive for a movie aimed at younger audiences. It does a great job of weaving tons of Pokémon into the narrative in a way that makes sense to the story being told. There were also a few hilarious innuendos that I still cannot believe made the final cut! All I will say is that I would love an unrated version when the movie releases on home media!

While mostly comedic, there are still tons of action-packed scenes littered throughout the movie.

And because I’m me, I have to leave a little room here for the music! Henry Jackman created a solid soundtrack that contains equal parts cinematic score and video game-inspired melodies, complete with synthesizers. These tracks provide enough influence from the games that inspired the movie while also maintaining their own identity. Oddly enough, despite my love of music I’m not a big follower of movie soundtracks, but I popped this one on as soon as I got home! And a surprise rendition of the Pokémon anime theme song was a great Easter egg 😛

I’m not going to score this movie the same way that I do video games, as this technically isn’t a review: more of an impromptu post to encourage people to watch this movie. Detective Pikachu is an excellent video game to film adaptation and any Pokéfan worth their salt should absolutely make the trip to theaters to see it!

Final Score: GO SEE THIS MOVIE!

-Andrew

Question of the Week #15: What Surprise Announcement Are You Hoping for at E3 2019?

This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo is less than a month away! Several announced titles already have fans chomping at the bit for more info: Borderlands 3, Doom Eternal, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, and Cyberpunk 2077 being just a handful. There have also been lots of rumors about the next generation of gaming, with Microsoft calling this year’s conference their “biggest presence ever” and leading many to believe their successor to the Xbox One will be unveiled. Sony has forgone the show all together, but rumors about a 2020 release for the Playstation 5 have still run rampant. Much has been shown, but there are surely still secrets galore just waiting to be revealed!

What kind of surprise announcements are you hoping for this year? Maybe games that have been announced but not elaborated on? Or are you anxiously awaiting a brand new announcement out of nowhere? Let me know with a comment below!

-Andrew

My Life as a Video Game

The Dragon’s Tea Party recently posted about what her life would be like as a video game. I was intrigued by the post as it wasn’t reliant on choosing examples from already-existing games for the various factors and instead created the ideas from scratch based on real parts of her life. It was such a fun read that I’ve decided to try my hand at it! I decided to add a few factors that I felt were important for an experience tailored around myself. I hope to do her original post justice and possibly inspire others to join in!


The World

I’m a sucker for open-world, fantasy locales with otherworldly scenery. My world (I’ll call it Canavas) would be rife with foreign creatures, vegetation, and magical phenomena…as well as an Abandoned City deep in the underground. From phosphorescent fungal forests that glow by night to the weaving passages throughout crystalline caves of every color, each day is an adventure waiting to happen. Other locales with less vivid colors exist as well, including an ashen desert and a canyon filled by the skeleton of a gargantuan serpent. Humanity only has a few large cities in this land, as well as some smaller settlements sprinkled throughout the wilderness.

There are an abundance of monsters throughout Canavas, from slight mutations of creatures in our own world to radically different lifeforms of anything we’ve ever laid eyes on. Some are peaceful, but many are aggressive. However, not every aggressive monster will attack you on sight. The world is designed to behave as an ecosystem: aggressive monsters eat passive ones, passive creatures feast on vegetation, and vegetation regenerates each day so that the cycle can remain consistent. Aggressive monsters only attack if they are hungry, or if you violate their “personal space.” Some creatures can also be tamed and ridden. And with my love of monster icons like Godzilla and Jaws, a few of the hidden creatures in the world will be absolutely massive.

Magic exists in Canavas, but more as a well to tap into from the surrounding world rather than a source within an individual. However, magical wormholes are littered throughout the land and allow for quick travels to a destination of your choosing: just picture the image in your mind when you step in and *POOF*! Certain people with an adeptness for the world’s magic are also able to weave it into clothing…for a price. The more I adventure and discover valuable treasures, the more magical gear I am able to purchase (thinking along the lines of improved jumping shoes, never-tire pants for running, capes for gliding, hats for navigation or finding hidden treasures, a gem for teleporting/fast-traveling, etc.). Think Breath of the Wild, but with scenery inspired by Hollow Knight, Blackreach from Skyrim, and Dark Souls.

The Protagonist (Me)

Much like The Dragon’s Tea Party, I don’t want to deck myself out with ridiculous powers that I don’t have in real life. I’ve always been a fan of games that start the player out as a meager scrub and give you the opportunity to build yourself up as you go with better equipment, improved stats, and honed fighting techniques. Any fancy powers I acquire would stem from magical gear (double jumps, gliding, etc.), but I also level up the stats of Health, Stamina, Strength, and Agility that are used for combat. There are also stats to improve the damage of the variety of weapons available: mostly the medieval sort (more on that later). I love to be creative, so my fighting capabilities would be a mix of straight combat and zipping around the battlefield with my enchanted gear’s abilities.

I also LOVE coffee, so I would have some sort of drink available that increases my available health and stamina for that given day, should I choose to drop that small amount of money on it. However, if I use the boost too many days in a row and then stop, I would suffer negative penalties on all of my stats for that entire day. Health and stamina are restored in a similar fashion to Red Dead Redemption 2, where eating restores each stat’s “core” and a full core regenerates my actual meter. Sleep is required daily to keep these meters at full capacity, while a lack thereof would decrease their max capability. Certain “coffees” could be taken along for lengthy excursions to help mitigate situations that result in a lack of sleep.

As with any RPG, it’s always nice to have a home base. There would be a variety of locations to set up my pad, as well as numerous options for construction, internal decoration, and item storage. Better beds would improve your stats slightly for the following day.

Lastly, my appearance. In real life, I change up my hair and beard styles quite often. I would have several hair and beard styles available to choose between from a mirror in my home. I would start with a few basics, then unlock more from collectible pictures that are littered throughout Canavas. They don’t provide bonuses: it’s all about style! There would also be many options for clothing in Canavas, from pants and shirts to gloves, hats, and even capes and coats.

The Plot

One day I am plucked from the real world in my sleep and transported to Canavas (and no, this isn’t a plot where “it was all just a dream”). I am found in the wilderness by an adventurer and taken to a local settlement. Upon waking, I’m informed by the citizens about this world I now inhabit. It turns out that every human in Canavas was similarly stolen from the real world over time and dropped here for some unexplained reason. While some resign themselves to their fate and simply live life anew, others become adventurers and try to seek the reason for this grand abduction. To hopefully find answers, I am pointed in the direction of several Elders: humans who have dwelled in Canavas for centuries and never perished from age. My adventure begins as I trek out to find these individuals.

The citizens of Canavas vary from depressed and downtrodden at their capture all the way to a few individuals who are excited at their predicament. Being me, my protagonist would be voiced as an optimistic, light-hearted individual, bursting at the seems goofy sarcasm and humor both light and dark. I can interact with any individual similarly to an Elder Scrolls game. As I adventure, I can complete quests for NPCs, as well as “joke” or “encourage” them to try and improve their demeanor. Various encounters and achievements unlock additional, more effective options for conversation.

Without going too in-depth, my journey eventually points in the direction of the Abandoned City: a dangerous place full of dark, ancient magic. Few who deign to enter the place are ever heard from again, and those who do speak only of its horrors. The finale ends with the discovery of a way to return home for both myself and any other citizens who want to go…but I can also choose to stay and keep exploring.

The Antagonist

I’ve always been an anxious self-critic. I dwell on mistakes and think about wildly unrealistic scenarios that are never likely to play out (Creativity doesn’t help in that regard lol). Growing up, my mom always told me “You are your own worst enemy.” So it is only fitting that, much like in the game Celeste, I have a dark doppelgänger. This vile enemy dwells within me and speaks throughout the journey, but can only surface physically when in the presence of Canavas’s dark magic: namely, in the Abandoned City*. This foe confronts me several times throughout the plot, morphing at each encounter into ever more terrifying forms until it becomes a radical monstrosity. Since it remains a part of me, it can never be truly defeated. Finishing the game requires me to beat it at its final form.

*Every individual who ventures to the Abandoned City encounters their darker side. The ruins are filled with the doppelgängers who have slain their actual self and are now cursed to wander in perpetual darkness. They are limited in number, but numerous and in various forms of mutation, much like my own shade throughout the journey

The Combat

Since it was so far unmentioned, my game would be played in third-person: I prefer games with action combat that accounts for both stat increases and the player’s skill. There are options for fast and heavy attacks, as well as a “dodge” button that is either a basic dive roll, or upgrades into dashing and warping via upgraded equipment (allowing for much faster recovery). Enemies are designed to provide various degrees of challenge, but most wild creatures can be overcome from the onset with proper button inputs (they just take longer with weaker weapons). The boss enemies of the Abandoned City are designed to be extremely challenging with their attack patterns, further building upon their terror factor.

The weapons of Canavas are largely of the medieval variety, but with a visual twist that suits the worldly materials of this foreign land. Weapons are made from various rocks, metals, and solidified fungal materials, and mostly have rounded, organic details as opposed to the stereotypical angular details in many modern games. Distance weapons vary from thrown spears and bows to magically-propelled projectiles akin to guns. These latter types are rare and costly.

Clothing and armor are also crafted from the worldly plants, fungi, and metals of Canavas. They can be enchanted with magical effects by finding certain individuals who have learned to manipulate the energies of the world (again, thinking along the lines of improved jumping shoes, never-tire pants for running, capes for gliding, hats for navigation or finding hidden treasures, a gem for teleporting/fast-traveling, etc.). Some clothing will also help navigate poisonous areas or other hazardous barriers to exploration.

The Visuals

I’ve always had a taste for games that are stylized versus those that aim for stark realism, but I also enjoy it when worlds contain a high level of detail. The graphics of my game would be very similar to Breath of the Wild: unlined cel-shading, but with a look that retains realistic human and worldly proportions. This allows for even more wonder when I encounter the strange environments of Canavas. A majority of the overworld will be bursting at the seems with color: largely reds, purples, and oranges. Crystal caves will glimmer with every color of the rainbow, each one color-coded ROYGBIV-style by the level of difficulty of the challenge within, with Violet denoted as the hardest. The Abandoned City will be dark and dim, with only magical lights infused into the architecture lighting the vast interior. A light source is required for effective adventuring away from these buildings, as well as at night in the overworld proper.

The Music

The wonder and mystery of Canavas must be accompanied by a score just as magical. I would have Jeremy Soule of The Elder Scrolls fame and Christopher Larkin of Hollow Knight to collaborate and create a soundscape that is at times ambient, at times melodic, and always enchanting. Fungal forests and crystal caves are calm and serene with pianos and violins, while the darkness of the Abandoned City is a brooding cacophony of cello and electric bass. And because of my love for extreme metal, boss fights against the aimless dark doppelgängers (and my own) would also be accompanied by a heavy electric guitar. Each of these evil foes would have their own spin on a central theme and my own clone would have all aspects of the others combined into one auditory tsunami.


When it comes to summing up my own characteristics and personal likings, I feel that this hypothetical game has turned into a title that I really want to play! I’m legitimately a bit disappointed that it’s only imaginary 😛 Thanks again to The Dragon’s Tea Party for this fun idea! It’s definitely been the most exciting post to write that I’ve had in a while!

What about you? What would your life look like as a video game? Let me know a bit with a comment, or go and do your own entire post! I’d love to read about your own mechanics and preferences! But if you do, please give credit to The Dragon’s Tea Party: she was the one who inspired me to write this in the first place! Thank you for reading, and game on!

-Andrew

Why I Still Play Skyrim

Revisiting adventures of the past is a commonality in video game aficionados. The urge for that rush of nostalgia is powerful, causing many people to put off playing newer games that they own in favor of taking a fresh stroll down memory lane. I see this the most online with older games: classics from the NES/SNES era that offer incredible gameplay in shorter ventures and are packed to the brim with excitement. But it’s not always an older title that digs its hooks in. For some, modern video games offer something special that can’t be found even in the most lustrous gems of the past. I am one such person, and the anchor that pins me down is Skyrim.

I’ve been returning to this Nordic homeland regularly ever since it first released over seven years ago. I had never personally experienced such excitement for a game until the build-up of mid-late 2011, where I would re-watch early gameplay footage over and over and over until even the FBI Computer Guy probably gave up on watching me. But once it landed, what drew me in? What continues to pull me back for fully-fleshed out playthroughs when there are numerous other adventures that I’ve yet to undertake in other worlds?

One of the biggest factors at play is simply the atmosphere of the game. The land of Skyrim teems with the values of bravery, honor, and prowess in combat. This is not a realm that teems with politicking and bureaucracy (although it does exist): it’s a place where actions speak louder than words. If you want to get something done, you do it yourself and you do it well. Infringing on the freedom and safety of others will leave you with a sword in your gut more often than a simple monetary fine. Even the wildlife is bent to overpower you, with the mighty sabrecats and frost trolls proving some of the most vicious enemies in the early game. Survival is only possible by getting stronger.

The sole thing more engrossing than the world is the amount of control you have over creating your character. There are ten races to choose from, each one with stat differences and special abilities, as well as countless ways to craft their appearance. But while the pre-determined stats give their own early advantage to each race, players are never limited in the slightest with what they can do in the long run. Create an Orc mage or a High Elf warrior with a preference for heavy armor: there are no rules for your character. Some of the adventures I’ve embarked upon stemmed solely from messing around in the character creator and liking a particular design that I stumbled upon. These spontaneous adventures had no planning and I ran with play-styles on the fly.

Once your protagonist is crafted, the world is yours to explore freely: however, I’ve found that creating a story that motivates your character makes the game even more exciting to play! Self-imposed rules for role-playing add an extra dimension to the game that mirrors our own world: anything is possible, but our true personage is made by our chosen actions. For example, the warrior that I’ve been playing recently tries to live honorably. When he stumbled upon the Sleeping Tree Camp, a home for giants that produces a drug from a tree, he avoided bringing any of the stuff with him despite the profit he would have made by selling it. Other characters I’ve adventured with have held few morals, stealing from even the neediest people to further their own station. In one instance, I even played a character day by day and texted his nightly journal entries to a friend to include them in the adventure.

And while they aren’t directly responsible for my constant returning to Skyrim, mods coming to console have helped expand the scope of my role-playing capabilities: in particular, the “Alternate Start-Live Another Life” mod. Instead of always beginning in Helgen, players are able to choose a scenario to enter into (being a bandit at a camp, living in a vampire den, joining a guild, etc.) and are placed into an appropriate spot. The non-specific beginnings (like banditry) even allow for multiple spawning points, further increasing the immersion you can garner from your starting options!

EDIT: I also have to give a shout-out to log1932 for pointing out my grave misstep in not mentioning the EPIC SOUNDTRACK that Jeremy Soule crafted for this adventure. I’m ashamed that I neglected to mention it in the original post, given my love for all things video game music. Skyrim wouldn’t be what it is without his massive contribution of ambience, peace, beauty, and danger that set the stage for each and every journey.

I played a lot of Oblivion when it released in my high school years, but with my own taste taken into account, Skyrim has eclipsed it in nearly every way. I cannot fathom what the next Elder Scrolls will bring to the table, but I can only hope it captures my imagination and creativity the same way that this epic continues to do year after year. Do you enjoy Skyrim? Tell me about some of your favorite experiences in this fantastic world! Thanks for reading!

Also, if there is any interest from you guys, I’d love to take some time to write about some of the stories and characters I’ve created! 😛

-Andrew

Opinion- Why Breath of the Wild Will Never Be the Same

As I mentioned in a previous Question of the Week post, I recently found myself stuck in a gaming slump. I was caught in that quagmire for a couple weeks. Nothing sounded fun or exciting to play and I just couldn’t will myself to buy a new game, as everything felt too much like something I had played before. I’ve thankfully paddled my way out since with a second run of Hollow Knight and diving into its DLC. But when my mind was endlessly brainstorming titles both new and old to fill that gaming gap, my thoughts drifted to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

I have put a lot of time into this Nintendo gem, clocking in close to 200 hours between one complete playthrough (aside from Korok seeds) and another run with at least half of the total shrines finished. I debated returning to Hyrule when nothing else seemed to pique my interest, but I just couldn’t muster up the motivation. I didn’t understand. Breath of the Wild is easily the most exciting Zelda title I’ve ever experienced: why didn’t it sound even remotely entertaining now when I could use it the most? Then it dawned on me. The wall that barricaded my enthusiasm was none other than one simple fact: the mystery is gone.

When Breath of the Wild released in 2017, I was rabid. Eccentric. Hyped beyond measure. My anticipation of the new Zelda title couldn’t be compared to any game that came before, save for my treasured Skyrim. It was such a radical change for the land of Hyrule to be so grand in its scale, rivaling even the largest open-world games. I remember checking the map after completing the Great Plateau tutorial and feeling as small as an insect in comparison to its vast terrain! There were so many secrets to uncover.

While I still find the game to be immensely enjoyable even in my second playthrough, a large part of me was expecting that same ethereal sense of wonder from start to finish. But that’s not how games work. I’ll never have that same experience of learning how the physics of Breath of the Wild work. I can’t replace my first time navigating through the Lost Woods… without the use of a torch. And nothing will ever be as humbling or terrifying as my first sighting of Dinraal the dragon as it soared out of the Tanagar Canyon in the distance. Those moments of uncertainty in a strange world are unique and utterly irreplaceable by the adventures now blessed with talented combat skills and extensive knowledge.

It seems like a no-brainer to say that “no two playthroughs of a game are alike,” but that often stems from the gameplay. Skyrim allows the creation of countless adventures across several different characters. The Witcher III allows the player to choose a different combat focus with its rewarding Witcher gear sets. But Breath of the Wild is always the same game. You might choose a different direction to wander off in first, find certain equipment prior to others, and maybe decide to limit your playing with self-imposed challenges, but every playthrough will ultimately end up being the same. That is, except your first.

I would never deign to tell another player how they should or shouldn’t play a game. However, I feel that my personal scenario of starting a second file could be a lesson for other players who are considering waking Link from his slumber for a second time. Breath of the Wild is in incredible game: certainly my favorite of the Zelda series! I found that pumping my all into a singular playthrough would have been far more mesmerizing, memorable, and rewarding than dividing my time between multiple journeys. I should have created my own goals or freely tracked down more Korok seeds rather than scrapping my first file to start another.

What is your opinion on this? Does it vary from game to game, or do you always tend to play games just the one time? Let me know with a comment! Thanks for reading, friends, and game on!

-Andrew