“Edutainment” is a term that’s gotten a bad rap over time, conjuring up memories of Mario Teaches Typing, Carmen Sandiego, and even the dreaded Mavis Beacon titles. However, the genre has evolved recently, to the point where the gameplay component is frequently fleshed out and enjoyable, rather than being a mere afterthought. Take a title like Mulaka, which exists as both an educational piece and a highly entertaining video game. Developers are realizing that – to keep people engaged with the game’s subject matter – they have to keep them interested in the game. Plus, even if the inclusion of so much gameplay (the horror!) results in some topics being omitted, getting a taste of a new subject in an exciting atmosphere can whet one’s appetite for knowledge, leading to further research and learning being done outside of the context of the game.
A while back, I did a write-up entitled “The Consequences of a Full-Time Job”, in which I discussed the new job I had started and the perceived ramifications it would have on this humble blog of mine. At the time, I assumed that the only thing that would ultimately be impacted was my writing schedule. However, as time has gone on, I’ve been made painfully aware of my drastic underestimation. My writing schedule is all over the place, to the point where I no longer even feel like I can promise release dates for upcoming reviews. I keep cancelling streams at the last minute due to physical and/or emotional burnout. Hell, I’ve barely even tweeted.
While that all sounds incredibly negative, this cloud of disorganization has had a pleasant silver lining: it’s forced me to revaluate what I do, why I do it, and what it all means to me. The results may not be pleasing to all of you, but that’s the downside to doing something like this that’s ultimately for myself: sometimes I have to be selfish and do what’s right for me.
I’ve been hinting and casually mentioning it for a while, so it’s time to come clean: I got a full-time job. For those of you who are curious, it’s a software engineering position at Getty Images! Like, the stock photo company?
Yeah, I’m, like, kind of a big deal now.
Half Life 3? Not happening. Portal 3? You wish. Valve’s longstanding reputation for teasing and never releasing sequels meant that the announcement of Bridge Constructor Portal was met with a…mixed response, to say the least. Really, though, I’d say that it’s a net positive, as I’d rather see Valve handing its licenses to other devs for spin-off purposes than hoarding them like a dragon with so much gold. If it results in more games like Bridge Constructor Portal, well, so much the better!
Right now, you are reading this on a screen. Be it on a computer, phone, or tablet, you’re staring into a black mirror while information is fed into your mind. What else have you done today? Have you checked Facebook or Twitter? Updated your Tinder profile? Maybe Snapchatted some friends? Regardless, a piece of you has been made public in some way, whether you intended it to be or not. When all of those pieces are assembled, who do people see? Is it the real you, laying bare the depths of your mind and soul? Unlikely. It’s a shallow facsimile of your flesh and blood self. It’s a calculated, perfect image that you’ve crafted by accentuating your strengths and satirizing your weaknesses. There’s nothing wrong with that; everyone does it. However, doesn’t it make your human form seem… inferior?
Life is a series of choices. What to do, where to go, how to act, and so on. Some choose to live in the moment, focusing on their pursuits with reckless abandon. Others live for those around them, eager to help in whatever way they can. Regardless, everyone is their own person. It’s easy to look back on a series of events and think, “What if?” For instance, what if you had turned down that job offer? Then again, suppose you were dead broke and days away from ending up on the street. Suddenly, that job offer doesn’t seem like a choice. You may know of some potential repercussions; you may not. The decision remains the same, because, regardless of what hindsight may later tell you, it seems like the only option at the time. Such is the case with Last Day of June, a story-driven title that feels like a puzzle game version of Groundhog Day meets The Butterfly Effect.
Pulling off good horror with pixel art is difficult. Titles like Lone Survivor come to mind as somewhat recent examples of pixelated horror done right, but such games are far from the household names that Outlast, Amnesia, and even Slender have become. Part of the reason for that may be that it’s difficult to properly set up jump scares when playing from what is generally a pulled-out, third-person view; giving the player so much vision can undercut the effectiveness of such surprises. To combat this, many “bit horror” games choose the same tactic chosen by The Count Lucanor: the horror comes from the imagery and circumstances rather than their sudden presentation.
So many games focus on conflict. Light versus dark. Good versus evil. Bokida: Heartfelt Reunion, though, takes a different approach, with the nameless protagonist working towards the unification of the yin and the yang. For too long, the two have been separated, but it is time for them to be reunited once more.
Video games have explored countless horror film tropes over the years: abandoned hospitals, possessed toys, and ghoulish monsters, just to name a few. Such games have, for the most part, taken themselves completely seriously, sometimes to their detriment. There’s been a drought of games that capture the spirit of schlocky, B-movie slasher films like The Evil Dead and Grindhouse. Slayaway Camp aims to fill this void with an interesting combination: the typically fast-paced thrills of the genre mixed with the methodical pacing of a puzzle game.
“Beware the barrenness of a busy life” is a quote that appeared on my new browser tab this evening. In a way, it’s appropriate. Here I am at 10 PM, realizing that I have no games ready to review, and homework that I should really be working on instead of fixing that. The insanity of the last week has left me feeling at loose ends this weekend, despite knowing full well that I have work to do. Maybe it’s warranted, though. Multiple 1-2 AM nights, one 3:30 AM night (is it even considered night at that point?), and probably something like five litres of hot chocolate. Thinking back, I barely know where half the time went. There were frustrating university assignments, final classes that seemed to last for an eternity, and the joys of crunch time on a video game development project. Yet it’s all just a blur.
On the other hand, I feel motivated. I know that I’ll never truly stop being busy, yet it seems like the worst may be over for the time being. Coming out of last week, I’ve realized that, aside from three exams and presenting the aforementioned video game, I have very little on my plate, at least from a school standpoint. In its place is something that I find far more exciting.