Thoughts on The Last of Us

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Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us is the antithesis of the Uncharted series. One game is built on stealth, scavenging, and nonviolent solutions; the other game on blood, ammo drops, and guns, lots of guns.

I happened to take a sick day this week. To relax, I fired up The Last of Us. Now I should note that this is a game I have tried quite a few times to get into. Somehow, someway, The Last of Us has failed to capture me, until now. The fact that it was daylight outside could have helped my bravery. Scary games and I do not get along.

The last time I played The Last of Us, I had left Joel, Tessa, and Ellie out in the rain. They were trying to make their way down a slick street, avoiding the military along the way. Years of Uncharted training told me to unload my gun on these goons, up the body count, and get along. Yet, The Last of Us teaches one that guns are bad. If you are going to shoot a gun in this game, you better prepare to deal with the consequences. You see, guns are loud. In a game all about stealth, enemies swarm towards gunfire like flies to fresh poo.

We soon came across two new enemy types: 1) Clickers: Infected that are blind yet have amazing hearing; 2) Runners: Infected that can see and rush one at will. I realized that each enemy encounter is like a puzzle. If you can distract an enemy with a glass bottle thrown into another room, you are golden. The Last of Us is all about misdirection. And bricks. Bricks are fantastic melee weapons. They also provide something to throw to stun or create a diversion. I cannot stress enough that the moment your gun clears its holster, you will be stringy flesh on toast.

Expect to die many times. Each encounter is different. Sometimes it is best to observe first, die, and then try a solution. Death isn’t the end, death is your friend.

The-Last-of-Us-1

Further along in the game, we made it to the state capital building. The military arrived and surrounded the building. I tried at least 5-7 times to sneak around and out of the building. No good. So I then decided to move as fast as I could from one barrier to the next. Avoiding military patrols like the stealth professional I am not, I walked out of the building without a single shot fired. This game is good.

The Last of Us pushes for non-violence and yet is the most violent game I’ve played in a long time. I like how the non-infected humans are scarier than the infected. I love how the game is kicking me out of my comfort zone of running and gunning.

I ended my sick day entering the darkened corridors of a high school. My wife and son where out shopping for the evening. I was home, alone. Coming across a group of Clickers, I decided that enough was enough for the day. Could have been that my bravery left me when the sun went down or that I was just tired. But I’ll be back, brick in hand, to continue the journey. Not forgetting the quiet moments in the game, moments of utter wonder.

Beauty. Light. Darkness. Oh the world we live in, reflected in a video game.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5

Surf Report – 4/1/2014

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Surf Report
Welcome to the Tuesday edition of the Surf Report.

.: God:

Sunday morning I listened to a great discussion in small group. The topic was on evangelism and how there are different roles in bringing others to Christ (sowing, watering, reaping, etc.).

.: Life:

Saturday, my father-in-law came over and helped me take down the handicap ramp out front. Looks much better now.

Hall House

Phase I of our front entry project.

.: Gaming:

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Friday night I had some time to myself. So I fired up the PlayStation 3 and decided to pick Tomb Raider back up. About an hour and a half later, I found that my opinion of the game has not changed. Tomb Raider is a videogame that basks in tension, torture, and somehow female empowerment. The entire time I was playing I kept thinking, “I wish this was an Uncharted game.” I wanted the fun of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark versus the seriousness of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Six missions left until the end of the game. I will persevere.

– LINKS – 

– “But man, if you’re looking for some deep philosophical themes or life-changing experiences, Chrono Trigger (or most any game, for that matter) will not be the place to look at all.” – Adults Playing Chrono Trigger

– Also, I enjoyed The Theology Gaming Podcast #33 – A History of Healing. Great discussion! Would love to hear other topics such as: resurrection, circumcision (as mentioned), baptism, etc.

Repost: Points

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Achievements. Trophies. Icing on a video gamer’s cake.

The virtual playgrounds of Xbox LIVE and Playstation Network (PSN) each feature what basically amount to mini-games, the achievement/ trophy grind. In a battle that has no meaning, players try and see who can out achieve and out trophy their fellow gamer. Street cred in its digital essence.

I was recently playing through Uncharted, when I noticed I was receiving trophies for “50 headshots” and “100 kills with a pistol”. While I knew that these trophies really didn’t mean much, they kind of did. The more I played the more I noticed how much I liked receiving these in-game accomplishments. It was as if someone had come and patted me on the back, every once in awhile, for completing some soulless task.

Many of us work thankless jobs; jobs where negativity thrives in the absence of praise. These small, pointless, meaningless achievements and trophies are a breath of fresh air after a hard day of work. Even though I know that they mean nothing, ultimately they do. In the rush of everyday life, the rewards systems employed by these online networks reinforce that feeling that your actually achieving something for the time your investing.

One has to openly wonder though if all this icing is somehow fattening our egos. Will we come to expect being praised for doing something as simple as getting dressed? I wonder…

(Somewhat related: In marriage, the points don’t come as easily… Check out the video below!)

Uncharted: Disconnected Violence

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In adventuring through the jungles, deserts, and valleys of the Uncharted series, one quickly  starts to realize that there is a disconnect between the series overall violence and protagonist Nathan Drake. Throughout the trilogy, Drake is portrayed as an easy going adventurer/ tomb raider. As the body count piles on, as you game on, clearing out a room full of “bad guys” becomes mechanical. The violent gun-play seems to unintentionally turn Nathan Drake into a man lusting for blood.

When I first started playing video games, the games themselves were all about getting from one side of the screen to the other. Rescuing princesses and blowing up aliens provided simple contexts in which the gameplay was wrapped around. There was no need to question the morality of the main character due the medium’s simplistic level. Link’s motivations were always to vanquish evil and rescue Zelda; Sonic’s hurricane force used to free furry creatures and stop Dr. Robotnik. As I’ve grown older and the world more complex, video games have followed suit. The simple plumber saves princess storylines have morphed into grand space operas such as the Mass Effect series. Morality and character motivations have suddenly come to the forefront. Welcome to the modern era of video games.

I‘ve realized that I enjoy video games for their stories. I consume a good video game story like I consume the latest literary work. I want to immerse myself  in another world and escape, in a healthy way, for a little while.

The Uncharted violence disconnect is like a nagging fly. Nathan Drake carries out violent actions because the rules his world runs on demands it. Does that make his bloodless escapades right? Shouldn’t gameplay and storyline go hand in hand?

What do you think? Comment away!


Points

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Achievements. Trophies. Icing on a video gamer’s cake.

The virtual playgrounds of Xbox LIVE and Playstation Network (PSN) each feature what basically amount to  mini-games, the achievement/ trophy grind. In a battle that has no meaning, players try and see who can out achieve and out trophy their fellow gamer. Street cred in its digital essence.

I was recently playing through Uncharted, when I noticed I was receiving trophies for “50 headshots” and “100 kills with a pistol”. While I knew that these trophies really didn’t mean much, they kind of did. The more I played the more I noticed how much I liked receiving these in-game accomplishments. It was as if someone had come and patted me on the back, every once in awhile, for completing some soulless task.

Many of us work thankless jobs; jobs where negativity thrives in the absence of praise. These small, pointless, meaningless achievements and trophies are a breath of fresh air after a hard day of work. Even though I know that they mean nothing, ultimately they do. In the rush of everyday life, the rewards systems employed by these online networks reinforce that feeling that your actually achieving something for the time your investing.

One has to openly wonder though if all this icing is somehow fattening our egos. Will we come to expect being praised for doing something as simple as getting dressed? I wonder…

(Somewhat Related: In marriage, the points don’t come as easily… Check out the video below!)

Dreams

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Sorry the picture is so grainy…no flash photography was allowed in this part of the game. Might scare the zombies!

I do not do well with scary stuff. Take for instance a sudden twist in the Uncharted storyline last night. Everything had been going along swimmingly, when suddenly a past Nazis influence was introduced. Poof! Cue the supernatural elements such as killer Zombies -thankfully not armed with weapons, yet!-. After battling through darkened corridors with only a flashlight, I finally thought I had gotten away from this demonic horde. I was wrong. Very wrong. The game’s developers then decided to chuck not only zombies at me, but terrorists as well. A deadly combination burrito. Without the cheese.

Jurassic Park. Apparently not a fun place considering all anyone does is run and die.

All of the above to say that I had some pretty intense dreams last night. I dreamed of a zombie apocalypse that was somewhat akin to the movie Jurassic Park. Except this time…all of the golden retrievers died.

Dreams can take us to the wildest of places. Sometimes making sense and other times not. I am thankful not to live in a dream world…the nightmares are far too intense.

What crazy dreams have you had recently?

Gamer OCD

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I have quickly come to the conclusion that I play too many games at the same time. A friend of mine calls it “gamer OCD”. Want proof? Within the last month I have explored:

  • Ratchet and Clank: Future
  • Dragon Age Origins
  • Final Fantasy 13
  • World of Warcraft
  • Little Big Planet
  • Flower (With only six levels, I rocked this game!)
  • Final Fantasy 7
  • Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune

Did you count how many games I have played off and on? 8! Keep in mind that it is not like I play each game for 5 minutes and then jump to the next. No sir. Instead I dump more than a few hours into each title. With Final Fantasy 13, I have probably played for more than 6 hours total. Run. Battle. Discuss random things. Run. Battle. Etc.

The problem with moving between so many games at a time is that you quickly forget how to play a specific game. Take last night for instance when I fired up Final Fantasy 13 and quickly died. I had forgotten how to play the game. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

So, where am I going with all this? This year, I really want to focus on playing one game until I complete it or decide to discard it forever. FOREVER. I inwardly laugh over making such a resolution (I don’t think I’m capable of it) but I would certainly like to try.

Climb aboard my tidy ship of serial-gaming-monogamy. The waters ahead could be a tad rough.