Firewatch and Bloodborne made me want to walk away from gaming

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Firewatch and Bloodborne tainted my view of video games. Both experiences left me feeling that all games are dark, violent, and depressing. Filled with language I don’t allow in my house; filled to the brim with blood. I needed space. So I threw gaming in the backseat.

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The beauty of the Wyoming wilderness contrasted against human brokenness. Dark secrets hidden in outdoor splendor. My experience with Firewatch was gut-wrenching. I felt for protagonist Henry. The reality of his personal fairy tale falling a part. I wondered at the intentions of Delilah. Her name seeming appropriate. A distraction, like the watchtower in the game itself. None of it mattered though. The profanity-laced journey was for naught. Terror and mystery ended in smoke.

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Mixed-in with my quest into the woods, were sporadic play sessions of Bloodborne. Hearkening back to the muscle-memory games of my youth, Bloodborne scratched a deep down itch. But the dark settings and constant violence weighed on me more than I could tell.

I had told my friend Scott how I was feeling, burnt out on video games. His first response was, “It was Bloodborne, wasn’t it? Shoot.” Good friends often know you better than yourself.

For about a week, video games disgusted me. I had no interest in them. This scared me. But left me with a clear head to contemplate other things. To allow God to speak truth where I needed it.

I fired up Destiny over the weekend. Had a good time playing. We’ll see where that leads.

Thoughts on The Witness

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Myst Island: Round 2

Jonathan Blow’s The Witness has me intrigued. A Myst game for the modern era.

I tend to forget how hard Myst was. Sure, the game was beautiful in it’s time. But Myst required coordination with other players. Writing down clues, puzzles,and code. The ultimate water cooler game.

Polygon — 8/10

“But The Witness throws endless puzzles at the player while almost never recognizing their accomplishments, which creates something of an antagonistic relationship between player and creator. I fear that will send players running to walkthroughs faster than they would have in a more rewarding environment.” — Justin McElroy [Review]

USgamer — 2/5

“And that’s the overlying problem: The Witness doesn’t care if you’re having fun—for the most part, it relishes in how clever it can be. There’s some joy to discovery, sure, but once that’s over with, you’re just scraping against the few things in your way. I appreciate Blow’s lack of presence in his world, but it’s a blessing as much as a curse. Of course, I understand what he’s doing: The Witness is very much a modern-day update of Myst, and meant to be played as if we were back in 1993. Ultimately, it feels like something designed to be chipped away at over weeks or months—not an experience to cruise through over a handful of afternoons.” — Bob Mackey [Review]

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I have read several reviews that liken The Witness to Dark Souls or even the more recent Bloodborne. Games that demand skill, patience, and an almost sharing of secrets. My more recent foray into Bloodborne had me consulting with friends for both strategy and encouragement.

The modern era has us all on our individual technological islands. What if certain types of games force us off of them? Forcing us to bridge the virtual gap, to talk in person, to somehow experience humanity again. Yes, that sounds dramatic. But you understand where I am going. Gaming has become a much more isolated experience, despite the internet. I am all for games that force us to connect with one another. Even if that connection is forged over progress and survival.

Are you playing The Witness? Tell me about your experience in the comments below. 

Bloodborne: Toolbox

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Slowly adding to my Bloodborne toolbox:

  • The Front Stab – L2, then R1
  • The Backstab – Hold R2 to charge attack, then hit R1
  • Leaping Attack – Up on the left analog stick, then hit R2
  • L1 transforms a weapon, R2 to charge up
  • L2, with a transformed weapon, swings said weapon in a wide arch. Great for enemy groups.
  • Pebbles are your friends, use them to draw an enemies attention.
  • Put down your gun and swing!

Tales from the Borderlands Episode 3 – Shifting Gears

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Taking a break from my Yharnam hunt, I fired up Tales from the Borderlands Episode 3 – Catch a Ride. Telltale’s third act of the Borderlands saga begins to reveal a grander story. The introduction of Gortys, a Pixar-like robot, made me smile. I haven’t finished the episode yet but every plot beat has felt solid so far. Take a moment to check out the introduction:

Bloodborne: Caution To The Wind

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I played the same run for over an hour. Don’t laugh.

At first I was cautious, taking on one enemy at a time. Many deaths later, I embraced speed. Plunging into mob groups, swinging in true wild style. Yeah…

In the above video, I had a solid nine minute run. I applied the MMO concept of pulling, of drawing away a few enemies from a larger group. My MMO roots served me well until I became reckless. One moment of complete surprise by the enemy at the end, death. Logic dictates that large things should not move quickly, especially troll-like creatures.

Logic: Amended

Mental Database: Upgraded

My friend Zach pointed out that:

  • The stamina meter is my friend. Not to attack to the point where I lose the ability to dodge.
  • I need to walk, rather than run. (I’m not sure I 100% agree with this piece of advice. From a mechanical perspective, Bloodborne seems to beg for speed in movement. Wondering if this is like having a gun in Metal Gear Solid V. Just because the gunplay feels amazing doesn’t mean one should go Rambo with it. Stealth and all that.)
  • Use ranged attacks to pull enemies. (I’m going to have to experiment with this. The gunplay seems built for close range combat. Used to stagger an enemy, open a single moment of weakness, in order to attack.

For those hunting in Yharnam, any other crumbs of advice? I promise to eat them up! As long as advice crumbs taste good.

Bloodborne: Joy In Death

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Scuttlebutt on the street is that Dark Souls games are cruel. Punishing difficulty. Death equaling toys being taken away. A regular playground bully of a game series.

Firing up Bloodborne, I expected a steep learning curve. Dying over 30 times on the first nether beast, I thought that my experience was par for the course. Maybe the game doesn’t give you weapons for awhile? My fists of fury will triumph! And they did. After many rolls, dodges, and time, the nether beast died. Joy to the world.

Death is the teacher in Bloodborne. My moment of joy pooled in blood. I can hear Han Solo telling Luke Skywalker in A New Hope, “Great, kid! Don’t get cocky.” Best advice ever.

My friend Scotto noticed that I had taken up the hunt in Yharnam. He sent me a link to a walkthrough he is using. He noted:

“Helped a ton, and the author is pretty funny.”

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My character looks like Harry Potter. Complete with wire rim glasses. Will take a screenshot of him soon.

Geared up, I restarted the game with a new character. Picked up weapons in Hunter’s Dream. The hunt begins now.

Exploring the city, I take on it’s infected denizens with ease. Silly me to think that the game was sadistic enough to hold back weapons. Rolling, coming up behind an enemy, pure mechanical satisfaction. I found myself smiling. Until I embraced cockiness and died. I laughed.

Bloodborne could be the most fun I’ve had gaming in a long time. The challenge and skill level demanded is perfection.

I walk around screaming, “Bring it, monsters!” Forgetting that the blood shed comes at a price.

I have enjoyed knocking on closed doors in the city. People answering me on the other side. Revealing a small bit of story. Hunkered down until the madness of my hunt comes to an end. Am I damned to slaughter the infected forever? As long as I have my trusty cleaver and blunderbuss, I’m good with whatever the game wants to throw at me. Roll, fire, slash, repeat. Another night, another hunt.