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"Whatchaplayin', kid?"

A recurring blog segment, probably

· Currently Playing

Thanks for asking, post title!

Are you the type of gamer who can only pick up a single game at a time? If so, trigger warning: the gaming hyperactivity in this post might upset you.

Just hit the bong and play Fall Guys, Laganja, it'll be okay.

I tongue-in-cheekily say that I'm pansexual in my video game interests. I can't contain my affections into just one genre. All games are beautiful; it's what's inside that counts. Gaming is a spectrum, henny.

As such, you'll find me juggling seven or twelve different games at any given time. (That used to be literal, back when I worked at GameStop and loved alphabetizing shelves.) As much as I recently joked about not being able to pick up another narrative game until after I finish playing Persona 5, single-minded gaming is not my forte. Also, you know, there's my career. Kinda gotta be a voracious gamer to know the happ'nins in game design.

Actual footage of me on my way to play all the games.

Have a scroll if you're interested in some brief, spoiler-free opinions of the myriad gaming waters into which I'm currently dipping my toes.

Whatchaplayin' on Switch?

THIS IS THE POLICE

Needing to escape the systemic racism and police brutality of America's justice system, I decided to pick up this game where you... oh... umm... role-play as... a Chief of Police. Hmmmm.

Fortunately, This is the Police is far from a brutality simulator. Rather, it's a nuanced simulator of choices and resource management, à la emergent policing situations, long-term investigations, under-funded and -staffed departments, deals with the mafia, crime noir narrative cutscenes, and low-fi stylings, all experienced through the lens of a day at the office. To elaborate on the story would spoil it, but let's say it had me from its first VO'd moments of noir.

"F*** tha Police" is not among your musical choices, for better or worse.

One of my favorite l'il bits thus far is the first step in the daily routine: your choice of vinyl record to provide the day's soundtrack. Just a little thing, but dem diegetic details, man. As Fernando Vera reminds us, "The devil is in that shit."

If this reference is lost on you, y'all need some Mr. Robot.

Some other titles I'm enjoying on Switch:

  • Breath of the Wild, for obvious, there's-a-triforce-tattooed-on-my-body reasons. Been taking it slow, because who knows when BotW 2 will release? (Cough 35th anniversary Christmas season we all know how this goes just take my money cough.) I need a steady drip of Zelda in my gaming IV.
     
  • I'm about 100 Power Moons away from OMG FULLY COMPLETING Super Mario Odyssey, and it still feels joyful to hunker down for a good moon-hunt through all the nooks and crannies of this gorgeous game. That I'm not utterly exhausted of the experience yet shows what a master class in collect-a-thon design SMO is, at least for my attention-deficit ass.
     
  • I picked up Yoshi's Crafted World and am so delighted by the aesthetic, but the platforming is a bit simplistic for someone who smashed through Yoshi's Story on Nintendo 64 at the wee age of nine (a feat that still feels impressive, probably because those last chapters were nuts-hard). Still, I bounce back to it every now and again when I just want to smile at some extraordinary cardboard creativity. 

Whatchaplayin' on PS4?

THE UNFINISHED SWAN

Yeaaaah, I know, I'm about eight years late to this minimalistic painter party. Somehow, this game never landed on my radar, but the recent PC port caught my eye, so I (with beloved gaming build sadly stored stateside) picked up a copy on PS4.

So far, I'm enjoying the whimsy and environment discovery of painting my way through this Escher-esque storybook world. There's something very satisfying about having an instinctive inkling of a room's geometry, then confirming it as you splatter-paint with abandon and aplomb. Tricky part is not to splatter too much paint, or your all-white void of nothingness turns into an all-black void of nothingness, helping exactly naught in the spatial reasoning department, so I've discovered.

The Unfinished Swan, by any other mechanic?

As you join Harold and the Purple Crayon—I mean, Monroe and the Silver Paintbrush—along his journey through the unfinished painting of a world, a fanciful and heartwarming little tale unfolds, narrated in the soothing tones of a kindly children's librarian. And who *doesn't* need a kindly children's librarian to read to them for the rest of 2020?

A few more games I'm digging on PS4:

  • How had I never played Thomas Was Alone, either? Late to the block party (hah) and on the recommendation of a friend, I picked up this game and fell in love. Then out of love, because hot damn is some of the platforming the bad kind of frustrating. Then back in love, because cheeky British narration. Good things come in packages narrated by cheeky Brits, as the saying goes.
     
  • Y'all heard me rave and rant about Persona 5 already. I love/loathe this game so much. I JUST WANT IT TO BE OVER, but I also know I'm going to spend another 50 hours playing all of the side content, because I am a fickle completionist creature, and they're the only friends I've had in lockdown, please don't leave me here alone.
     
  • Look. Guys. I'm trying to play Horizon Zero Dawn. I try so hard, I get no far. And I KEEP trying so hard, picking it up every few months, so sure that THIS TIME it'll take. I wish I could even say that the story compelled me, but... meh. Something about a girl named Metal Alloy and her dad? There were maybe other people? Probably a call to action? I've played the opening hours of this game so many times; you'd think I would retain any of the plot or characterization. Flummoxed by questionable design choices and clunky controls, I just can't stick with this game long enough to wait for it to Get Good™, as I'm sure it must, for there to be so many fans. S'pretty to look at, at least. This one might have to be a Let's Play watch for me.

Whatchaplayin' on PC?

DISCO ELYSIUM

With my gaming PC not located on my current continent (weeps in expat), I've been making do with what few games my MacBook will laboriously wheeze into playability whenever the PC gaming urge strikes. Happily, Disco Elysium is one such game.

First, the writing. My friends, the writing! Tickling me in all the best Lovecraftian ways, not unlike a pint-sized Cthulhu. Add to that a modern sense of humor and your protagonist's penchant toward public nervous-breakdowns, and you find yourself reading things like this:

Barring that, you could put it in a backpack and take it to the shit store, Summer.

I mean, need I say more? Okay, okay, a few things more: The inventive dice-rolling mechanic through which the protagonist's internal monologue interacts with itself, the world, and your choices. The grimy, grungy, dispirited-yet-sardonically-hopeful atmosphere. The depths to which you can plunge—into your protagonist's own mind(s), into increasingly disturbing conversation threads with a bevy of characterful NPCs, into the nihilism of identity and one's role in society as we tremble upon this frail mortal coil. Also, karaoke!

Not to Mandasplain to you what your gaming priorities should be, buuuuuut... this might be one to consider bumping to the top of the list, if you're into immersive RPG-driven storytelling and questioning sanity (your own, of others, either way).

Other games my MacBook is struggling to load in lockdown:

  • Baba is You brings me a sense of joy and frustration (joystration?) that I haven't known in tile-based puzzle rooms since the days of Chip's Challenge. Watching speedrunners crush this game in SGDQ 2020 was fascinating... and so, so discouraging. I'm over here stuck on the same level for actual weeks, too proud to look up a tutorial. Baba is WEARING GROWN-UP PANTS and WILL FIGURE THIS OUT ON HER OWN.
     
  • EXAPUNKS, oh boy! I'm having super-nerdy-fun-time with this game. Offering a printable in-universe "hacker zine" PDF as your only tutorial, EXAPUNKS challenges you, a hacker with narrative motivations (vague, because spoilers), to undertake a series of increasingly difficult logic puzzles using the strongest weapon in your arsenal: code. In this game, not unlike the post-covid world, there is little hand-holding. This pleases my old, grizzled gamer heart, which remembers a time when we didn't have enough pixels for robust tutorials, and we walked uphill both ways to steal TV remote batteries for our GameBoys, and we liked it.

Whatchaplayin' on Quest?

BEAT SABER!!!!!

Ahem. Excuse me. I had a humble-brag stuck in my throat. You wouldn't know this, because I'm woeful at self-promotion and don't yet have a mixed reality setup for all the YouTube views, but I'm kind of a big deal at Beat Saber.

My (Quest potato quality) capture of nailing a top 5 global rank on Expert+, complete with happy dance.

I play at *least* 10 hours per week—it's my daily quarantine cardio, and frequently my weekend-long jam sesh. I come from a musicianship background and a long history of rhythm gaming in the world of competitive Dance Dance Revolution tournaments, so Beat Saber was love at first block. The latest Linkin Park music pack is FIRE EMOJI, and taking out my pandemic angst to the soundtrack of my teen years is all kinds of cathartic right now.

More things I'm flailing around with on Quest:

  • Oooooooooweeeee, Trover Saves the Universe! It sure is a hilarious romp! It's got wacky characters, and-and-and... and zany plots, and fourth-wall breaking huuuuuumor! And if you're not reading this text in the voice of Mr. Poopybutthole, oooooooweee, you gotta do that! (Yeah, yeah, I know Mr. PB isn't in Trover, and technically their universes aren't confirmed to be canonically intertwined, but that's called (oooooweee) artistic liiiiiiicense!) ((Also, I need ONE MORE POWER BABY for the special ending, but I can't find it, and I again refuse to Google it, because *diva finger snap* PRIDE. Completionism is effort and I'll stop when I die!))
     
  • SynthRiders, sometimes, sure, why not! Beat Saber is my first VR dance-gaming love, but the danceability of SynthRiders is admittedly more organic—less waacking taiko drummer, more sticking-your-arm-out-the-car-window-on-a-windy-day. There's a nice full-body flow to SR, even if I can't for the life of me grok the scoring system. 
     
  • Not a game, but I have to shout out to Tilt Brush. 3D-painting inside my own 3D painting (yo dawg..) sounds like science fiction, and it's the most joyful escape in all of my hobby catalogue. Belting along to musicals while painting in TB for hours... is not a hobby my neighbors are likely to appreciate, now that I see it written out. That explains all the prank SWAT raids.

Whatchaplayin' on mobile?

Decidedly premium games, because I have A Few™ opinions about the blanket user experience of F2P mobile titles... but that's a story for another post.

The Dude hath spoken.

This is a short list, because not leaving my house means never having to soothe my scattered attention span with mobile dopamine hits while I'm waiting in the checkout queue. I can do that from the comfort of my own couch while not watching Netflix, thank you very much.

  • Loving Crying Suns, an inventive procedural roguelike space exploration game that frames linear narrative and recurrent death in a refreshingly diegetic way. Highly enjoying the emergent narrative encounters... in spaaaaaaace! RTS combat system could use some QoL polish, but it's not been a deal-breaker so far in my enjoyment of this underappreciated title.
     
  • From the maker of A Dark Room came Penrose, and a fascinating take on non-linear narrative. Styled as a novel (or an ebook, as the kids call 'em), the story rewrites itself  as you make choices. The system of flipping back and forth between things you've read/not read and changed/not changed can get somewhat unwieldy in the finicky UI, but the idea is solid, and the writing is excellent.
     
  • I legally own a GameBoy, and have legally procured, from my own collection of legally owned games, the digital ROMs to play on a GameBoy emulator... so with that very honest yes of course disclaimer out of the way, I'm revisiting a few childhood classics on a big-ass tablet screen, and it feels *so* good. Remember Tetris Blast? I could go the rest of my life without playing that game, and I would still be able to sing you a pitch-perfect rendition of the main theme, complete with level sound effects. NERD POWER.

More chiptune, plz.

Now that you have the Tetris Blast soundtrack stuck in your head until the inevitable heat-death of our planet, answer me this: Whatchaplayin'​, kid?

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