On My Radar – Moonlighter

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Moonlighter looks like the perfect Switch game. Time will tell if it manages to mix the exploration elements with the sim/shopkeeper frosting.

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Oxenfree

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Looking back, I feel bad for my dad. I think he was used to nice things like his stereo system. Nice things that us kids always managed to break. I think we broke his turntable first, but my memory is a tad fuzzy. What I do remember though is the green glow of his Pioneer radio tuner. There was something magical about that soft glowing dial that brought music and voices from afar.

Title: Oxenfree
Developer: Night School Studio
Platform Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch

A group of teenagers head to an island to party for the night. Just a small get together really. They bring along a handheld radio, you know, just for fun. And maybe also because tuning the radio to specific frequencies causes weird things to happen.

The evening soon goes to cosmic horror hell. Oxenfree starts dropping hints of:

  • A submarine crew who died off the island’s coast…
  • A scientist who was researching radio frequencies…
  • Environments that react to specific radio frequencies you tune in to with your radio…

Friends start going missing. You soon do not know where reality begins and the isolated island nightmare ends.

.: SPOILER ALERT :.

I played this game without knowing much about it. I’m happy I did. And I won’t ruin that for you. What I will spoil is that there are multiple endings to this game. Endings based on specific dialogue choices you make. Oxenfree is all about a constant flow of conversation that feels inconsequential. But surprise! Your words do matter and do affect the outcome of the game.

Do you want the super happy ending? The ending where whatever is happening actually ends? You have to pick the right grouping of dialogue choices.

By the end of the game, I doubted whether I had actually finished Oxenfree. Even after the credits rolled, I didn’t trust the game due to how much it had messed with me. The game reinforces this feeling of unease as the credits finish rolling and Oxenfree loops back to the main menu:

“Continue on the same timeline?”

The same timeline? What is this? I was so confused and yet felt like I could kinda see the breadcrumbs the game had left me. My confusion led to a Google hunt. That is where I learned that dialogue choices are a huge key to this game. HUGE! So much for choice.

I’m happy with the time I spent with Oxenfree. I feel a little ripped off by the way it all ends… but I also like endings that are not all neat and sorted out. Life is a lot like that.

The Nintendo Switch was the perfect system to play this game on. Nothing like laying in bed, headphones on, being creeped out by forces who just want to live. No matter the costs.

3/5 – Best use of a handheld radio gameplay mechanic. Love the way the Switch’s rumble felt as I spun the radio dial. In the end, I wish the game had telegraphed more how important conversation choices are.

Unwritten Rules: I Must See the Ending

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Our good friends recently bought us Qwirkle, a tile-based game that has the universal appeal of Rummikub. Qwirkle pits 2-4 players into matching colors and shapes for maximum points per turn.

Qwirkle comes with a cloth bag that serves two purposes:

  1. Serves as a place to store all of the tiles when done with the game.
  2. Acts as a draw pile/bag to pass around, as players must keep 6 tiles in their hands at all times.

For me, the bag of tiles also acts as a visual indicator to show me how much longer the game is going to take to play. One of my unwritten rules, with tabletop games, is that I have to be able to visually see/know that the game is going to end. Too many long games of RiskSettlers of Catan, and Killer Bunnies and the Quest for the Magic Carrot have burned me out on 2+ hour games.

Knowing that the game is going to end gives me hope; Hope that I won’t be treated as a tabletop hostage.

 

A few games that embrace this rule:

  • King Domino
  • Carcassonne
  • Chicken Foot (a Dominos-like variation)
  • Cranium Whoonu

Unwritten Rules: The Ability to Pause

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Our dishwasher went out about a month ago. That same weekend, my weed eater engine decided to freeze-up, and I discovered that I owed the government money. Needless to say, I found myself feeling overwhelmed by brokenness tossed with a side of bureaucracy.

In pulling out the dishwasher to measure for a replacement, I discovered that the washer was directly plugged into the house’s electrical system. A direct electrical connection, I Googled, was a normal way of wiring dishwashers twenty years ago. Who knew? But in our modern day, the dish cleaning device is supposed to be plugged in to an electrical outlet. Something goes wrong with the dishwasher, no need to panic. All one has to do is unplug the washer and move on versus making a frantic trip to the breaker panel.

I mentioned my dishwasher dilemma in small group this past Sunday. One of the guys told me that he could help. So this past week, Brian came over and helped me wire a new electrical outlet so that I could plug the new dishwasher in. In the course of the evening, after we had finished installing the outlet, I grabbed the Nintendo Switch to show him.

As we were talking, I said something I realized I needed to write down here and share. This is one of those unwritten rules I have:

As a husband/father, who plays video games, I have to be able to immediately pause or quit a game at a moments notice.

This unwritten rule means that the games and the systems I play them on must fit the criteria of being able to pause, save, and quit on demand. I have learned:

  • To avoid gaming genres built on needing excessive amounts of time to advance/play (the MMO genre).
  • To embrace gaming systems that feature a sleep or suspend feature/button.
  • To play games that feature short core gameplay loops (the main activities that structure a game, that a player repeats over and over). These types of games allow me to feel like I have progressed/accomplished something with my gaming time.

The ability to pause at a moments notice, allows me to feel less frustrated, when I need to suddenly divert my attention to what is going on around me. Communicating, hopefully, to my family that they are important (because they are!) and worth me being present and available for.

Thinking Aloud

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My church’s youth room is decorated with black and grey tones. Even the ceiling tiles have been painted black. The overall effect reminds me of a dark cave; a dark worship cave.

As I was waiting for my wife to get out of a summer camp meeting, I talked to a few of the guys hanging out in the youth room. I was immediately asked, “Do you play Fortnite?”

Wyatt, sitting next to me, suddenly perked up, “What’s Fortnite?”

I talked with this kid, we’ll call him Alex, about the game. He gave me a history lesson on the rise of battle royale games, how most of them stemmed from a game called ARMA.

I was reminded just how nerdy gaming culture can be when Alex dove into a PC versus console debate.

“I’m a part of the PC master race.”

I’m sure you are, Alex, I’m sure you are.

My youth room encounter got me thinking about this site, my thoughts towards ministry within the gaming culture, etc. I am reminded that gaming culture spans a large swath of demographics. That when I think of gaming culture, I think of those who are closer to my age, not someone like Alex.

Reminded me that I started this blog to encourage others in the gaming space. That JohnnyBGamer has always been about promoting a balance between life and gaming. My original tagline, for the site, was: “Because there is more to life than just gaming.” I created that tagline in the midst of a season of watching friends being consumed by what they were consuming, video games. I hated that, I hated the control gaming had upon them, had upon me.

At this point in life, I am at a place where gaming doesn’t have as strong as a pull as it once did. But in talking to Alex and his friend last night, I’m reminded that there are others still in the midst of that struggle. A struggle where kids I know, kids around me, are out of control in their gaming. Makes me wonder…

How can I help parents:

  • Curate the types of video games their family consumes
  • Promote healthy media consumption habits for their children

How can I help gamers:

  • Ask questions about the games they are playing
  • Learn healthy online habits for interacting within gaming culture
  • Be aware, overall, that there is more to life than just gaming

I am not sure where God is leading me right now. But these are thoughts I’m processing through in this season after stepping down from Theology Gaming. Whether I step out and do something “big”, become more purposeful with this blog, or just take the gaming lessons I’ve learned, along the way, and use them to help my son navigate the gaming space.

Administrative Professionals’ Day

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I dread Administrative Professionals’ Day.

Every year, without fail, my office forgets Administrative Professionals’ Day. Then, two days later, I suddenly have a gathering of co-workers outside my office. My boss then:

  • Apologizes
  • Gives me a card
  • Thanks me for my service

Which is all great and grand, I appreciate it. But I dislike how awkward it all becomes, all because greeting card companies have declared the day as special.

Greeting card companies, ya’ll need to let go of this one. Please, for me?