All posts by Tom

About Tom

Tom Baker is a freelance culture writer and dog whisperer. More often than not, he's hungry and tired.

Journey to the West: Can Dragon Quest XI succeed outside Japan?

In Japan, the Dragon Quest franchise is a bonafide phenomenon. Each instalment sells millions of copies within the first few days of launch. It has retained its audience of both casual and hardcore players across multiple console generations, the first game having been released in 1986 on the NES. In a 2006 Famitsu survey of the best games of all time, readers voted three separate Dragon Quests into the top ten. The iconic Slime character is as ubiquitous in Akihabara as Mickey Mouse, Bart Simpson, or the (sorry, but it’s true) Minions are over here. Yet the series has never reached that huge level of popularity outside of its homeland. For the upcoming Dragon Quest XI, Square Enix want to change that. Will it succeed?

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Podcast Episode ??: Your Spring 2018 Update

Spring break…spring break…spring break forever…AHEM, uh, it’s been a while, huh? Well, the Bleeping Sickness podcast is back, and better than ever! Or, more accurately, more similar than ever. Our first quarterly update of 2018 sees the team discussing what they’ve been playing, what we’re looking forward to in the rest of the year, game difficulty, and melted Welsh Lisa Simpson. Full show notes after the jump!

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Attempting to parse the narration in a God of War (2018) trailer I saw at the cinema last week

God of War (2018) is not the first entry in the God of War franchise. It is, in fact, either the fifth or ninth, depending on whether you count spin-offs and mobile titles and the such. The removal of any numerical acknowledgement of its predecessors is symptomatic of the fact that, while video games are oftentimes unparalleled at communicating certain ideas, feelings, experiences and messages, video game marketing is almost wholly about hampering clear lines of communication.

Continue reading Attempting to parse the narration in a God of War (2018) trailer I saw at the cinema last week

War without war: The depoliticised conflict of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds

Five minutes into his half-hour interview with NoClip’s Danny O’Dwyer, Brendan Greene drops an pertinent piece of biographical information. In response to the query, “how does a kid from Ireland grow up with such an affinity for military simulators?”, the man better known to the gaming world as PlayerUnknown details a childhood as an “army brat,” raised on a military base by his soldier father. Isolated from other kids and his friends at school, he spent most of his downtime doing “obstacle courses and watched army people play with guns, which was great”; a little different from the experience of most Irish kids during the Troubles, it’s safe to say.

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Podcast SPECIAL Episode: Game Of The Year Edition

The Bleeping Sickness podcast is back baby. It’s good again. Awoouu (wolf Howl). Grab a pew and join us for a discussion of our favourite games of the year in a special episode that, whilst not as far-reaching as the marathon end-of-annum podcasts put out by some gaming websites, is already being called “too long” by some critics. Thrilling! On a more serious note, this episode is dedicated to the memories of those who lost their lives in the Great Ape War. Godspeed.

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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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