We Won an Award?
Staff | July 29, 2016
Well, that was unexpected. We were nominated for a Liebster Award by another gaming blog, which means we get to respond with answers to their questions and a few questions of our own.
Surprise! We’ve been nominated for an award. This was mainly a surprise because we didn’t previously have any hard evidence that people read our blog.
Thank you Critical Teatime for the Liebster Award nomination! In your honor, we’ll be answering the below questions along with a tea pairing.
Alan’s tea: Matcha Blueberry
Trevor’s tea: English Breakfast
Answers from Us
What game melts your cold critic heart? Meaning a game you know is flawed and has issues, but you cannot dislike it and will defend it until the end of time.
I summon up the power of the God Hand! Clover Studio’s final game, God Hand, has noticeable blemishes. The level designs in particular are profoundly bland, every building looks like someone copy and pasted the same block across a desolate, flat landscape. It was kind of like living in the midwest, actually.
What God Hand lacks in technical prowess though, it makes up for in character and style. It gave the player tremendous customization, even allowing you to construct your own basic combo attack. There’s no blocking, only real fast and precise dodges. Dodging at the last second fills your God Hand meter faster, a technique you’ll need to master to tackle the later stages. In some ways, I still consider it the ultimate standard in high risk, high reward gameplay.
What really sells it is the way it doesn’t take itself seriously. Everything is played really tongue in cheek, with jokes and gags around every corner. A good sense of humor and a little slapstick comedy goes a long way towards smoothing out those blemishes. Judging from most reviews at the time of release though, it didn’t work on everyone.
The Castle Doctrine (here's my review). I’ve put almost 100 hours into it and given countless copies away to friends in the hope that they’ll like it as much as I do. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite catch on the way I thought it should have, which is a bit of a problem for a game that relies on a large multiplayer community.
Despite that, I still love The Castle Doctrine. It provides a ruthlessly challenging experience that pits human ingenuity against human ingenuity in a really compelling way.
Side note: I actually purchased a large number of copies of The Castle Doctrine in bulk from the game's creator. If you're willing to commit to actually playing the game, get in touch with me for a free copy. We need to get this community going again!
Yeah, it’s a shame the challenge these days is convincing people to play it.
What was, in your opinion, the greatest invention in the video game market? This can be hardware, mechanics, and engines, anything that revolutionized gaming for you.
This is a hard one, and I’m tempted to try and form an argument for the Virtual Boy just to see if it can be done, but instead I’m going to go with Z-Targeting. It changed the way every 3 dimensional action-adventure game would be played for the rest of time. And it led us down a path which would one day create Dark Souls, which is a solid path.
Network multiplayer. Being able to play games with people who aren’t in the same physical location has created entirely new communities, game genres, careers, and ways to play. I still think World of Warcraft was the greatest game ever made and its development was directly dependent upon robust network multiplayer.
You know, I didn’t think you could “win” questions, but I think Alan just won this one.
What game was your first addiction? Not just a game you would play, but a game that stuck with you and you could not wait to get back to, and you put hours upon hours into it.
Another hard one for me. It’s a three way toss-up between Legend of Zelda: A link to the Past, Final Fantasy IV (titled Final Fantasy II at the time of the release in the states), and Super Mario RPG.
I’m gonna go with Final Fantasy IV, as it's the first time I can recall caring about characters in a game. Even when I hit parts of the game I didn’t like, I forced my way through, desperate to know what would happen to Cecil and his friends next.
Pokémon Blue. It came along with a Game Boy Color as my Christmas gift one year and boy did I dive deep down that rabbit hole. Pokémon was a fundamental platform for my grade-school friend network, as everyone raced to collect and trade all 151.
Did a game ever punch you in the guts (metaphorically of course, although I’d love to hear any literal cases)? Meaning a moment (can also be an ending) that made you feel sick/bad/sad/lifeless.
Three come to mind immediately.
Spec Ops: The Line has “the moment,” the one anyone who’s played the game will remember forever. It’s disturbing, profound, and leaves the audience feeling disgusted with themselves. This is all in service of a greater story, the start of a dark and clever descent, and the real triumph of Spec Ops is how it makes the player feel responsible for everything.
More recently, The Beginner’s Guide caught me by surprise. The protagonist has a breakdown near the end I closely related to, one fueled by deep self-loathing and envy. I finished Beginner’s Guide feeling like I’d learned something about myself. It wasn’t something I wanted to learn, but maybe it was something I needed to.
And finally, there’s Prey. The game is filled with gross, pustulating, bio-organic imagery, but it doesn’t really seem to be in service of anything. While I enjoyed the gameplay of Prey, I couldn’t help but feel it was designed just to gross me out and make me cringe. If that’s the case, mission accomplished.
There’s a point in Dark Souls where the fire keeper of the game’s main hub (Firelink Shrine) is killed. Soon after, you get a chance to reclaim her soul from her murderer and restore it to the Shrine to bring the fire back.
Well, I did manage to reclaim her soul. Unfortunately I did so just before one of the toughest boss fights in the game, which I ended up stuck on for weeks. After some time had gone by, I forgot that the soul I’d been keeping in my inventory was special. I thought it was just another fire keeper’s soul, so I gave it to another fire keeper to enhance my Estus Flask.
When I finally defeated the boss and returned to Firelink Shrine, I discovered what had happened. I had squandered the fire keeper’s soul and would never be able to light Firelink Shrine again. That was a punch to the gut so forceful that I didn’t play the game again for months.
What abstract concept needs a playable version to better understand it? Can we make people understand what depression is like by letting them play it, for instance?
Mental instability. Bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia, Asperger’s syndrome. Mental issues often become a throwaway line to justify a sociopathic killer, but the truth is far more complicated and difficult. It involves countless hospital visits, a dozen different prescriptions, and loved ones who struggle to help with something they can’t understand. Trying to regain control of your own mind when it starts to fail you is a never ending battle, and it’s one few win.
I can count the games I feel have portrayed this struggle accurately on one hand. Maybe one finger? No, at least two.
In defense of video game developers, expecting any piece of media to accurately portray such a complicated topic is lofty expectations indeed. Film has failed on this front just as often. Looking at you, Identity.
Machine learning. It’s a concept integral to our daily lives now, but one with fundamentals that few people understand. I could see the potential for gameplay elements around generating training sets, feature extraction, etc. — all the steps necessary to hone a machine learning system.
What was the best soundtrack-visual-gameplay combination moment in a game for you? A moment where music, gameplay, and visuals amplified each other to new heights.
This is a hard one for me. I’m really curious to see how Alan’s answer compares to mine.
A lot of profound moments I can think of in games, I didn’t have control. The ending of Journey, for example, would lose all its power without Austin Wintory’s incredible soundtrack. However, when Journey reaches its musical apex with the incredible track “I Was Born For This,” which might be one of my favorite songs ever written for a game, the player is no longer in control. The credits are rolling.
So, if I take gameplay into account, my answer has to be... um... Rayman?
Yeah, Rayman. Both Origins and Legends have stages built around music, and the mix of hand-crafted visuals and upbeat scores make the whole sequence addicting. If they made a Rayman game designed around music stages alone I’d pre-order it, and just to be clear, I haven’t pre-ordered a game since 2005.
To this day, I still have “Tricky Treasure” on my phone.
This is one of my favorite things that games do, so it’s tough to narrow it down to just one. However, my answer is exactly the same as Trevor’s second one — Rayman. Specifically, I’ll call out the Black Betty stage from Rayman: Legends. So. Damn. Good. In every way.
Which sequence would you have loved to play, but sadly it was only a cutscene? Keep in mind that the sequence should also be playable, theoretically at least, within the boundaries of the game.
I’ve made my feelings on Final Fantasy XIII clear elsewhere on this site, so I’ll save everyone a sixty paragraph diatribe filled with my laundry list of annoyances and dissapointments. .
If there was one moment that might’ve salvaged an otherwise god-awful experience, it was a sequence where Lighting and Friends interrupt a race on their eidolon’s. Some even steal the futuristic bike-motorcycle-spaceship things, giving me hope I’d actually take control.
I didn’t expect much, honestly. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect a mini-game in a Final Fantasy adventure, but I would’ve also settled for the normal turn based combat framed around this high-speed chase scenario. It would’ve been a nice break from the usual rut Final Fantasy XIII was so eager to fall into.
Ends up, nope.
Remember in Final Fantasy 7, when you bust outta window on a motorcycle, and hack down Shinra soldiers on the highway? Pretty cool, right?
Well, not in Final Fantasy 13. God forbid we give the player control in a high speed motorcycle chase! They might ruin it with their disgusting, grubby human hands. Sit quietly and bask in our pre-programmed brilliance!
To hell with Final Fantasy 13.
I would say Final Fantasy 13 as well, but given the normal gameplay mechanics in FF13, I’m not sure I actually would have wanted to play any of those cutscenes. I don’t know that I really have an answer for this one. Normally my tolerance is very low for games that spend too long in cutscenes, so I don’t think I have many examples to draw from.
Alan’s comment just reminded me -- there’s this sequence at the start of the game where Lightning is performing crazy acrobatic leaps, bouncing off the walls, deflecting bullets -- it looks amazing.
Then a fight starts, and she paces around waiting for her ATB bar to fill.
It really felt like a bait-and-switch, right off the bat. Such a dissonance between what the game shows these characters doing, and what you actually get to do once you have control.
What was the best and worst line of dialogue in a video game for you? Can also be a piece of a conversation.
I always think dialogue is at its best in a game when it’s accomplishing as much as possible. There’s an exchange in Bioshock Infinite I’ve always found profound for its simplicity and how much it communicates in only six short lines. In a short series of questions between Elizabeth and Booker while you wander a boardwalk, you’ll learn everything you need to about Booker’s past, and Elizabeth’s goals and ambitions. The best part is it all happens without taking control away from the player, which really helps let the gravity of these realizations speak for themselves. If these conversations took place in a cutscene, underscored with bummer music, it’d only cause me to roll my eyes.
For worst, I’ll start by giving a dubious mention to Homefront and the line “Get to the hooters.” But, amazingly, I don’t think Homefront has the worst dialogue I’ve ever heard.
No, for worst, it’s never good when character’s spout expository dialogue in all the places they shouldn’t. For a great example of what not to do, I recommend 2009’s Damnation. Conversations turn on a time, characters proudly recall previous battles everyone present fought in and ought to know, and they use oddly specific in-universe lingo without providing the audience with any context. I swear, in every cutscene, it’s like everyone hit their heads and forgot how to have a conversation.
Best line: The first “you are not prepared” from Illidan in the World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade intro cinematic. Great delivery and a perfect set-up for an incredible expansion.
Worst line: The introduction of Bolo Santosi in Just Cause 2. I remember hearing it over and over again, which probably means I had to play the first mission with her faction over and over again. Combine a terrible and weird fake accent with annoying repetition and you’ve got a truly awful line of dialogue.
A game you would force upon every person to finish, because it would change their life?
To The Moon. Remember when I said I can count the games I’ve played that accurately represent mental problems on one hand? Boom. This is finger one.
As someone with a family member who suffered from mental issues, To The Moon managed to wrench and warm my heart in equal measure. A lot of feelings I’d never been able to process came jostled loose. I’ve never written about To The Moon because of how deeply personal the experience was. I’ve tried in the past, and the page goes blank within a paragraph. It’s impossible for me to separate my personal experiences from my feelings about To The Moon, and it ends up I’m not comfortable revealing that much of myself to strangers.
When I try to explain the plot of To The Moon to people who ask, I feel my eyes start to tear up. It catches me by surprise every time.
To The Moon helped me come to terms with a great deal of complicated feelings, and if I ever met Kan Gao in person, I honestly don’t know how I would react. Cry, most likely. Then hug him. He’d be really confused.
Uh, none of that answered your question, did it?
Let’s try this. I think To The Moon would help people understand two things better. This first is how mental disorders can affect a family, but no matter how bad things get, no matter how taxed other family members become, love still remains. As for the second, I think even people who don’t care for video games would suddenly understand why I play games that don’t look traditionally like “fun.”
Binary Domain. It’s a bit of a stretch for me to try and argue that it’s life-changing, but it’s one hell of a good time and there’s no way anyone is going to play and finish it without me forcing them to. I highly, highly recommend Binary Domain, and I especially recommend seeing it through to completion. I should go replay it one of these days.
Runner-up: all the Dark Souls games. They build character.
Who is one of the best voice actors in video games for you, plus the performance that sold you on his/her talent?
There are voice actors other than Nolan North and Troy Baker?
Seriously though, Troy Baker was incredible as Pagan Min in Far Cry 4. That man has a talent range going way underused.
And glorious hair.
In the interest of highlighting a voice actor who isn’t one of the two usual video game protagonists, Robin Atkin Downes always impresses me. His performance as The Boss in Saints Row III and IV is my favorite of the VO options.
Did you know he’s also the Medic in Team Fortress 2? I found that out while answering this question, right now.
Hmm, am I allowed to say Mark Hamill? I know he’s not primarily a video game voice actor, but his performance as The Joker is consistently incredible.
Are video games art for you and why / why not?
That depends on the game, honestly. I wouldn’t call every game art, and neither would I call every film or painting art either. Is the artwork for sale in the discount section of Target art? There’s a real fascinating conversation to be had there, I think.
Some clarity of language is in order, before I answer further. In my mind, art has two definitions. There is “art,”the act of creating visual assets, and “art,” the communication of complicated ideas through any medium.
I consider “pixel art” an underappreciated talent, for example, but what the pixel art is in service of? That may or may not also be “art,” depending on how the game uses the assets.
For me, it comes down to whether or not the game conveys a deeper idea. A “new media experience,” as we’ve jokingly called it here in the past, whenever I argue for one of these games on our Game of the Year lists. I’d call Beginner’s Guide, Cibele, and Emily is Away art, for example, because I think the creators have specific experiences and thoughts they’re trying to share. They’re more concerned with the message and how it’s being conveyed than whether or not the player is having fun.
On the flip side, Okami uses literati painting techniques as its aesthetic to such a degree it makes me question my own definitions. The game uses “art,” but is it itself art? I don’t know, but it looks glorious. Like Troy Baker’s hair.
Most of the Call of Duty franchise, though? Maybe not so much, in the same way I wouldn’t call “Captain America: Civil War” art. They’re designed for mass appeal and consumption. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, I don’t think, but it doesn’t lend itself well to the communication of specific ideas. It lends itself well to fun and popcorn, which is still great in its own right.
Well, Captain America: Civil War wasn’t great. But you get my point, I think. And this isn’t a film review site.
Yes. Any form of human expression is art.
...Yeah, okay. That’s another way to put it.
Questions for the Next Blogs
And now we get to the part where we suggest a list of questions for other blogs to answer. Here we go...
- Is there a game that caused you to see the world differently after playing it?
- Name two NPCs that you would want to have as roommates.
- What’s your favorite type of video game combat system and why?
- Were you ever convinced to play a game outside your usual genre comfort zone, and did the experience change your views?
- If you could learn any skill, talent, or ability from a video game character, what would you ask to learn and from who?
- All character action games are terrible. Discuss.
- If I were to hand you a pencil and paper and ask you to draw a game world from memory, which game would you attempt to plot out?
- What food from a video game would you most like to eat?
- Do spoilers make it more or less fun to play through a game?
- What non-”Baba Yetu” song from a video game do you think should have won a Grammy?
- What recent trend is going to destroy gaming as we know it?
Blogs to Nominate
We really like what these blogs are doing. So much so that we'd like to nominate them for Liebster awards in turn.