Category Archives: Videogames

Déraciné

Déraciné is, first of all, a story told in video game format. So the question is always: “Would this story be better told through another medium?”

Because it usually is. Most RPGs would be better books than they are video games. Most action games would be better movies than video games. When one make a video game and the focus is the story, one must make sure that they are telling a story that benefits from the medium. Alternatively, and even better: a story that could only be told through that medium.

I am pleased to say that Deráciné falls into the first of these categories, that is, while its story could have been told through prose or film, it would have been poorer for it. This alone is such a rare feat that it is worth celebrating.

Déraciné uses the gimmicks of time-travel and supernatural powers to explore the themes of fate and mortality. However, the thread that connects this is one of intimacy – an intimacy that the game builds by letting the players explore the world on their own, uncovering little tidbits of information about each character, like digital archeologists. 

Indeed, this approach could be replicated, let’s say, in literature. One could write a novel where now and then a paragraph would be written in code, and it would be up to the reader to figure it out. 

However, it does flow much better in an interactive setting, and doubly so through virtual reality, where the process of shuffling through drawers or peeking under the gap of a closed-door feel much more physical than in a first-person or point-and-click adventure. It also helps make the characters feel much more human and alive, even if they are, for the most part  – due to narrative and technical reasons – static.

So Déraciné is a success on three accounts: it does a good job of exploring the themes it sets out to explore; it is a better story for being interactive, and it is a better interactive product for being presented in virtual reality. 

That is pretty good.

Black Friday

I’ve previously written about my complicated relationship with… stuff. Things. You think I’d be decrying Black Friday, that ritual shopping spree that the US has exported to the rest of the world. 

I quite enjoy it.

Of course, it’s prone to abuse. It’s just another way of brainwashing you into buying stuff you don’t need to impress people who you don’t care about (and who aren’t even paying attention).

But there’s this little game I like to play. Whenever I see something expensive during the year, I tell myself: “I’d be a schmuck to get it now. It will be half-price or less during the November/December sales frenzy!”

This is especially true of my hobby, video games. The video game industry grossly over-inflates its prices, because the marketing machine is geared towards making people believe they need to enjoy a game as soon as it releases, or they won’t be part of “the conversation.”

Of course, there is very seldom a conversation about video games worth having. But that’s the idea that the industry wants people to get. They want to capitalize on their fear of missing out.

Immortal wisdom.

So I wait, instead of buying. And what happens is: when Black Friday comes along, not only do I get my stuff for half the price, but I end up getting LESS stuff – because my psychology is not affected by that need for immediate gratification, I only buy the things that I care about. 

Marketing likes to play all kinds of cheap tricks with your psychology. (Ethical Marketing is a thing, but that’s a lot of words and an essay for another day.) Fear of missing out is the video game industry’s favorite trick. Crazy sales (like Black Friday) are more of general marketing practice. But if you’re smart, and in the know (as you are right now!) you can dodge them, or even better – turn them to your favor.

Virtual Reality

I don’t get teary-eyed easily. It’ll happen at the epilogue of a particularly rousing movie, or upon reading an especially touching bit of prose, but it’s rare. Virtual reality, though, has reliably produced the “feels” over the last couple of years.

I’m a terrible VR subject. Astigmatism in my right eye doesn’t play well with VR headsets, making about 60% of my right sight’s range blurry. It means that whenever I put a headset on, I have to play for a bit while feeling something’s wrong until my brain smooths the signal over by attributing dominance to my left eye. Essentially, I am a one-eyed man in a VR situation.

That’s not what makes me tear up, though. I have the good fortune of being neither fatigued nor made sick my VR (with the particular exception of driving cars, something that makes me sick in real life as well).

I get emotional at the sheer beauty of it. So far, I’ve failed to see others having a similar response, so I guess this is a “me” thing, but I am just awash in wonder at being able to put on a helm and be transported to a different place, looking all around and realizing that I am in a different room, with different rules. It’s like lucid dreaming, in a way.

It’s beautiful. It’s magical. Everyone should try it at least once.

Photo Credit: Philicious Photos Flickr via Compfight cc