From Across the Net – “Owlboy: A Reflection on Friendship

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Over at Gamechurch, M. Joshua Cauller writes about friendship in Owlboy. I really liked this:

“The constant teleporting-in occurs thanks to your magical device, but the shock of being instantly teleported into a violent scenario takes trust. You see that trust grow…”

You can read more here

Can you imagine the trust it would take for you to allow yourself to be instantly transported anywhere? Knowing that each time you were transported, you’d be thrust into a dangerous situation? Talk about loving someone enough to die for them.

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Firewatch

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Bryan and Josh talk almost daily. But they have never met. One day, they got to review Firewatch—a visually stunning game for PS4 and PC—about two people who never met, but talk daily. This is that review.

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Firewatch takes place in Wyoming’s wilderness during the summer of 1989. Fire a constant threat, you’re hired to watch for anything that could harm the millions of acres of lush wild. Alone. Your only connection with any other humans comes in the form of a walkie-talkie at the top of your tower.

“So what’s wrong with you?” the person on the other line asks. Her name is Delilah.

Bryan:

What was your initial impression of Delilah?

Josh:

Delilah won my trust pretty early on, because she simply responded to what we saw together: like the time somebody set-off fireworks and we had to deal with that together. I wouldn’t say I completely trusted her right off the bat, especially with how she assumed something was wrong with relationships in Henry’s past but wouldn’t open up about her own. But her voice is sincere. Talking to Delilah is the highlight of the game for me. She sounds and feels like a real person. So does Henry, honestly, even though we’re in his shoes.

What did you think of Delilah?

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Bryan:

Delilah and Henry’s banter brought back memories of going camping with my Grandpa Ayers. He would tell these stories/create situations that would scare my brother and I to tears. The man had a way of planting thoughts and building upon those thoughts. Pretty soon you’d think that there was a bear just beyond the campfire. For a game to capture those times spent with my grandpa—it’s just amazing.

Speaking of, what did you think of all the hiking?

I think the game nails that feeling of being alone in the woods. A place where the imagination can run wild; a place where you and one other person shape your reality.

Josh:

The hiking always felt only as long as it needed to be. Instead of backtracking, the game often ended a scene and just cut ahead a few days to something important. But once or twice I had to backtrack for a long hike. At first I was like, “Oh, man!” But then Delilah would chime in and talk my ear off. It made the long walk completely worth it because it didn’t feel lonely.

She’d just talk about how the firefighters would do controlled burns, or about the teenage girls who snuck into the forest with three cases of beer. And sometimes the conversation turned more serious, but it always felt like an honest-to-God friendship. That friendship made the long hikes feel short to me.

You know what, Bryan? It reminds me of us. Like Henry and Delilah, we’ve never met, but we talk all the time. Our conversation has gone longer than theirs—we’ve been talking for three years now, but it’s super-similar in terms of a mostly-faceless friendship. Though, there was the couple times we talked face-to-face over Skype. It’s really cool that Firewatch explores this very modern kind of friendship, despite taking place about thirty years ago.

It definitely says a lot about our day, age and the kinds of relationships we forge these days, but I’ve noticed other reviewers say Firewatch is like a book—a real page-turner. What do you think of the idea that this could be considered “literature?”

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Bryan:

Firewatch is definitely a page-turner: a popcorn mystery/thriller that tries to answer, “How do we respond when things don’t go the way we want them to?“ The game has a similar feel to one of my favorite books, The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I read the book in two days, so concerned about the father and son trying to survive in a world where they’re alone. I couldn’t stop reading until the father and son were safe. Similarly, I found myself playing Firewatch until Henry and Delilah were safe. At least safe by an in-game checkpoint. I also liked how all the characters were real, broken. Living in the aftermath of bad choices.

Could the game be compared to literature? Maybe. But like The Road, there was no satisfying ending. I don’t know about you, Josh, but I felt like Firewatch fell apart trying to tie up it’s ending. All that intrigue, suspense, and then poof! But, I guess life is like that. It took me a few days of pondering to appreciate what Firewatch was trying to convey. Quite possibly one of the deeper games I’ve played.

Speaking of depth, and suspense, what do you think of the intro to the game?

Josh:

The intro surprised me! Who starts one of the most graphically rich video games ever with all text? But here it is: just text and hyperlinks for fifteen minutes. Subtle music added a little texture, but it’s essentially just a short Twine game built to establish your character, Henry. It was low-fi, but extremely affecting for me. It got me right into Henry’s hopes, fears, and disappointments.

What did you think of this intro?

Bryan:

I cried. And I’m not a crier. It reminded me that life doesn’t always turn out the way we want it to. Sometimes we become overwhelmed. A change of scenery needed in order to move forward.

Random question: Did you find yourself wanting to hoard/collect the books that you found in the game?

Josh:

Thanks for bringing up the books! When I found the books in the game, I really thought I was gonna have to collect books for some kind of achievement-driven task, but it never came. I love how the devs stripped-out anything but what’s important: the task at hand and the unfolding conversation between Henry and Delilah. Sure I could go off and explore wherever I wanted to, but it was only because I was genuinely curious—not because I had external achievements motivating me.

The ending will probably cause a lot of mixed feelings for some. Video games are known for epic breakthroughs at the last moment before credits roll, and Firewatch‘s conclusion seems like it could go for this grandiose Bioshock-style revelation, but then it puts something very grounded and earthy instead. You don’t save the world, or rescue the princess. There’s not even any fireworks.

It’s kind of the point: this is just a game about two people. That’s it. When I got to the final moments, I was on the edge of my seat—just because of Henry’s excitement to finally meet Delilah face-to-face.

How do you feel about Firewatch overall?

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Bryan:

Firewatch doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. I like how the game focuses on Henry and Delilah’s story. It allows the player to soak in and explore the Wyoming wilderness while getting to know another human being.

Josh:

I agree. It’s a valuable addition to the world of adult fiction. I’m not quite sure that I know what place it holds on my shelf for years to come. I can’t share it with everybody due to the unique adult conversations. Henry and Delilah talk like single adults in their forties who have a lot of problems. But the frank discussion never felt out of place. The strong words only added to the characters feeling real. I think that’s the key takeaway for me: it’s about having another adult to talk to who you can share anything with—especially the bad stuff.

wavesplinter4/5 – Plot holes mare what could have been a revelatory narrative experience.

Wave SplinterTitle: Firewatch
Developer: Campo Santo
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4
Reviews on: PC, PlayStation 4
MSRP: $19.99

*Firewatch was reviewed using codes provided by Campo Santo.

From Across the Net: “Oxenfree: The Beauty of Traveling Together”

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My friend Josh wrote a piece for GameChurch titled “Oxenfree; The Beauty of Traveling Together“.

The cop ticketed Adam and called us a tow truck. We crammed the three of us into the tow truck’s cab with the massive sweaty driver. Then we rode back to Adam’s camper. Adam despaired. He told us how he’d gotten thousands of dollars in debt and fines before this, got kicked out of college, and long since stopped believing in God. That may have been one of the crappiest car rides in Adam’s life, but this was the most honest and meaningful conversation I had ever had with him.

I love how Josh compares the conversational/relational aspects of Oxenfree with those that we have in real life. I’m a guy who loves deep conversation. Surface level hellos, just not enough.

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Neat to think that a video game captures those moments of connection. The interactive medium continues to mature.

Thomas Wasn’t Alone

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We are not meant to go at this life alone.

thomas-was-aloneThomas Was Alone drives home the point that we are meant to live in community with others. As the levels in Thomas progress, the game reinforces that red rectangle Thomas needs others to move from one point to another. Thomas cannot move through the game world alone.

My son graduated from kindergarten today (5/29). I’m not sure how I feel about that. Sitting there in the auditorium, I was reminded of what big personals events were like growing up. I remember having the biggest cheering section out of anyone. My parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins were always there to cheer me on. I wasn’t alone.

thomas-was-alone1Thomas Was Alone combines minimalist design and expert narration to introduce characters one cares for. Take Claire for instance. Claire is a large blue square. Even though she cannot jump high, Claire dreams of becoming a superhero. Thomas and his friends need Claire. She is the only one that can float across the toxic waters that would kill anyone else in an instant.

The Bible talks about the human body having many parts, each with it’s own task, function, and purpose. The Bible likens the human body to the body of Christ. In that we are meant to live in community.

I teach a group of men on Wednesday nights. We’ve been going through some difficult material. Peeling back masks and becoming real with one another, I have learned that we all have a need for friendship. Most of us feel as if we do not have anyone to walk in life with. We feel alone. Sometimes lost. Isolated within our families, running the race of life. The guys and I discussed how we can move beyond our personal islands:

  • Reaching out, in person, on the phone, even a simple text
  • Having a bigger focus than just ourselves
  • Being legacy minded

God lives in community with the Holy Spirit and Christ. If He is our example. . .  it may be time to pick up a phone, knock on a door, connect.

I write all this for myself. I am sure no one else can relate.

Friendship

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"I don't understand why we can't get close enough, I miss the shivers in my spine every time that we touch" - Jars of Clay, Closer

This morning, on my way to work, I was listening to a Focus on the Family podcast featuring Doctor’s Les and Leslie Parrot. They were talking about the importance of friendship in relation to marriage. Specifically, they spoke about how important it is to be good friends with your spouse. Reminded me of how easy it is to take spousal friendship for granted.

From the moment I met my now wife, we had an understanding, a connection. From our first conversation, I opened up to her about my Grandpa passing away and how I missed him. My wife has always been someone that I can talk very easily with. Quite quickly, she became/ is my best friend.

We have been through a lot of trying experiences over the years. Multiple family deaths, surgeries, and hardships at work. We have also experienced the birth of our son, four years of marriage, and the continual adventure that life brings each day. In short, we have traveled amongst the peaks and the valleys; we have grown stronger in our travels.

I don’t ever want to take the friendship I have with my wife for granted. I think that the ease of our friendship makes it easy to forget “the spark” that we have, the unique connection.

I never want to let you go baby, I love you .

Thoughts on Father Fiction: Part 2

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“These aren’t guys who complain about their bosses or disrespect their wives. And so, naturally, when I encounter men who do that sort of thing, it strikes me as weak, and I pull away. That’s just not who I am. Or rather, that’s just not who I want to become.”

In my last post, I pondered the lack of a close “board of directors” and celebrated friends that walk in life with me, though distant (read here). Today I want to talk about the above quote from Chapter 9 of Donald Miller’s Father Fiction.

As Miller concludes his chapter on friendship, he talks about not hanging out with those that display traits he doesn’t want to take on. This got me thinking about the image I project.

  • Am I someone that others would want to be friends with?
  • Am I someone that someone else would want to be like?
  • Am I dragging someone down due to my attitude or actions?
How about you? Do you:
  • Complain about your boss all the time and do nothing about it?
  • Do you talk about your wife behind her back, effectively undermining her in front of others?
I want to live my life in a way where others can see Christ living and working in me. Don’t you?

Connections

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In the hustle and bustle that has become everyday life, I am beginning to wonder how I ever found time to play such games as World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings Online. I think that when I was playing them, I was using them as a social means to hang out with friends from back in California. With the time difference proving to be too big of a drawback–I’m usually in bed by the time my friends get around to being able to game–, my friends and I all slowly walked away from MMO’s.

While part of me misses the thrills of leveling and exploring the various game worlds, I more so miss being able to hang out with friends in another state. Slaughtering the digital denizens, while shooting the breeze, created good memories for me. As a guy, doing something with other guys is just priceless, even if it is just playing a game online.

I don’t know if it is this way with every gamer, but I have a core group of friends that I have gamed with since high school. Since moving to Texas, I have kept in touch with them by phone, email, and occasional visits. I ultimately don’t want our connection to be lost due to distance. Though we may have walked away from MMO’s for the moment–Bioware’s Star Wars MMO is on the horizon–, we are all still good friends. I am thankful for friendships that evolve and change with time… and distance.