Actual Play: Prey

Actual Play is where we actually play games and then review them. You know, sort of like most video game sites do.

Available platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 (played), Xbox One
three star

Whether or not a game necessarily has to be “fun” is a debate, I think, that’s worth having. So to is the ongoing conversation about fetishising difficulty and the ability of players. The times I struggled with Prey, though, were not borne out of a challenging stretch or the moments of gut-wrenching tension. It’s when it felt like a slog.

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Save scumming as radical self-care

Bloodborne is one of the most frustrating, maddening, fantastic games I have ever played. It also, somewhat paradoxically, helped me manage my IRL anxiety. That is not a sentence I expected to write before booting up my first From Software game, from which I peaced out around Shadows of Yharnam because I had other things to do with my life than spend hours on a bullshit three-on-one boss encounter, but I nonetheless thoroughly enjoyed the time I did sink into it. Even that kinda seems like the wrong verb to use for a Souls game: enjoyed. The difficulty level, patronising simplicity of the “YOU DIED” Game Over screen and general inscrutability mean that, largely, the language we use to describe playing a game by Hidetaka Miyazaki and his team it supposed to be more akin to some kind of a trial, a challenge, something you persevere through. In actuality, I found it pretty comparable to my own coping mechanisms.

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Actual Play: Butterfly Soup

Actual Play is where we actually play games and then review them. You know, sort of like most video game sites do.

Available platforms: PC, Mac
five star

The history of gaming has brought us many memorable button prompts. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare was widely derided for requesting we “Press X to Pay Respects” during a funeral scene. Arkham City took that ball and ran with it in a section where you could direct Batman to do the same in some alley. That same button allows the player-controlled waterfowl to violently honk in House House’s highly-anticipated Untitled Goose Game. Yet never have I been more excited by the potential outcome of one of these prompts than when Butterfly Soup offered the option to pet a dog at a baseball game.

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Killing Nazis

It’s not been a great year, huh? On both personal and political fronts — and if there were anything separating the two before, it has surely been eroded now — there’s been considerable cause to despair. I’m sure that’s the case for many people reading this, faced with unceasing inequality, the unabated devastation of climate change, continual widespread bigotry of all kinds, war, terrorism, and the resurgence of fascism in the western world. There has been one bright spot amidst all this darkness for me, however: videos of Nazis getting knocked the fuck out.

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Podcast Episode #7: The One About Sequels

This might seem like a direct follow-on from the last episode, regarding remasters, but looks can be deceiving. Episode seven is an entirely new instalment which carries on the story from last time but with better graphics, gameplay, mechanics, and a whole lot of new bells and whistles. Well, not really. But the new edition of the Bleeping Sickness podcast is about sequels! Join us, won’t you?

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The game I most want to play this year doesn’t even have a name

My name is Tom and I am the idiot who sees a Reddit thread titled “what is the creepiest unexplained thing that’s ever happened to you” at 1 AM, home alone, and thinks that yes, that seems like a good thing to click on. These places are mostly repositories for repurposed urban legends, and the occasional half-baked creepypasta, but nonetheless: some of these stories stick with me. One that continues to trouble my memory centres at inopportune moments goes something like this. A man (I think he might have been an ex-marine) was driving on some rural highway late at night. He turns a corner and sees a car, stationary, in the middle of the road, with two people lying on the ground outside of it. It doesn’t look like an accident. It looks staged. He trusts his instincts and guns it past the bizarre scene and then, when he checks it out in his rearview, the two people stand up, and are joined by another dozen or so individuals who emerge from the bushes either side of the road. Fuck every single part of this story, and David Lynch and Mark Frost for reminding me of it.

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Podcast Episode #6: The One About Remasters

Back once again it’s the videogame remasters! The sixth episode of the Bleeping Sickness podcast is all about HD remakes, SD remakes, ports, cash grabs, whatever you wanna call the thing where they put an old game on your new console and expect you to be excited about it. And sometimes it is exciting! Full show notes under the jump.

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Overwatch: What It Means To Tell A Story Without a Narrative

The byline says Tom, but in fact this is the second post by Special Guest Jess, who you might have heard on the recent Overwatch episode of the podcast! Read their previous guest blog, on Gone Home, over here. It’s real good, and so is this.

Storytelling is not something you usually think is high on the priority list with first-person shooter games without a single-player campaign or concrete plotline, but Blizzard’s 2016 title Overwatch is a lesson in showing, not telling. The game’s primary modes do not move along a plot, nor do they reveal the story through unlocked cutscenes. Nearly all the storytelling elements are littered throughout as rewards for levelling up: unlocked items, maps, visuals and voice lines of the characters, as well as a whole stack of tangential media including comics and animated shorts. The type of gameplay does not lend itself to storytelling, nor do games of this genre usually tell stories (without a single player campaign) to the extent that Overwatch does. You get the feeling that it comes with a backpack full of lore, a sense of history and time, without ever progressing time or narrative with your player actions.

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Podcast Episode #5: The One About Overwatch

Overwatch, ever heard of it? For the fifth episode of the Bleeping Sickness podcast we (including Special Guest Jess!) chat breeze about Blizzard’s little-known class-based multiplayer online shooter starring a monkey, a robot, and Dick Van Dyke’s character from Mary Poppins reincarnated into the body of a time-travelling queer woman.  Open up this loot box, chums, and it’s all friggin’ gold.

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