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Found 143 results

  1. PlayStation broadcast its slate of titles that will be making their way to PlayStation 4 over the next several months via its State of Play platform. Today brought us tantalizing looks at new indie games like Humanity, Arise, a sweeping overview of PSVR games, and the AAA games coming out between now and early 2020. The State of Play also revealed the PS Plus games in store for October. Modeled after Nintendo's announcement and update series, Nintendo Direct, State of Play offers players a direct and digestible line of information on the latest games coming to Sony's flagship console. Here's everything that Sony revealed at their livestreamed event: Humanity - A new game from Enhance, the developer behind games like Rez and Tetris Effect. It appears to be some sort of puzzle game depicting the mass movement of people in both peaceful and violent ways. It's framed as a puzzle experience where the player guides streams of humans into pillars of light. Perhaps it is a commentary on some sort of afterlife? Humanity will be coming sometime in 2020. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare - State of Play revealed a new trailer focused on the story of the upcoming entry in the Call of Duty franchise. The story follows Captain Price, a brewing civil war in the Middle East, chemical weapons, and a US Embassy under attack. One of the main characters of the story appears to be the daughter and of a terrorist, their conflicting ideologies creating additional drama. The Special Ops Survival Mode, this game's co-op, will be coming to PlayStation 4 first. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare releases next month on October 25. Wattam - One of the more inexplicable games teased during the State of Play broadcast, Wattam comes from the creators of Katamari Damancy. It seems to be about shapes trying to be friends. Players are tasked with connecting reconnect various anthropomorphic shapes and characters and building up their relationships. A big part of this appears to be the primary character tipping its hat to reveal a present shaped bomb, a friendship kaboom, that explodes and spreads happiness. The game takes players across numerous worlds to spread love and kindness. It even allows singleand co-op play. Wattam will be coming to PlayStation 4 during December of this year. Arise - Coming as part of a joint endeavor from the folks at Techland and Piccolo, Arise seems to be a story about an old man navigating the afterlife. We're treated to scenes of him traveling through a snow filled wasteland, seemingly in pursuit of a light on a distant mountain. That journey leads him through vibrant forests and dark stretches that appear to be home to some kind of hostile force. While Arise was teased as coming soon, no date was announced. PlayStation VR games were shown in a rapid-fire manner, one right after the other. Viewers were treated to a good look at the drama, car chases, and gun fights of LA Noir: The VR Case Files, a game that Sony proudly announced was released today. The next game glimpsed was Gorn, a fantasy gladiator combat VR experience making its way from PC to PS4 sometime during Winter 2019. A thrilling spy adventure, Espire1: VR Operative, comes to the console later this month. Stardust Odyssey appears to be a fantastical space voyage through an imaginative universe on a mystical spacecraft, another Winter 2019 title. After the Fall is a VR game with monsters and mystery that will be releasing sometime in 2020. Finally, Space Channel 5 VR Kinda Funny News Flash brings a lighthearted and psychedelic dancing experience to VR sometime during Fall 2019. MediEvil - A demo launched today showcasing the revamped graphics and combat of the classic PlayStation 1 title. Playing through the demo will unlock a special hat in the full game. Sir Daniel rises again to fight evil and look better than ever this October. Sid Meier's Civilization VI - The popular strategic history game comes to PlayStation 4. It's supposedly a direct adaptation of the PC version. At launch, there will also be a bundle of the two expansions, Rise & Fall + Gathering Storm, will also be available. However, the bundle will be sold separately. The PlayStation 4 version will come with free Nubia + Khmer and Indonesia civilization & scenario packs. All of this hits stores on November 22. Death Stranding launches on November 8. Sony's State of Play announced that the game's launch would be accompanied by a limited edition PlayStation 4 Pro bundle the comes with the game, a custom PlayStation 4 Pro, and a unique controller design. Afterparty - An indie game from Night School, the developers behind the adventure game Oxenfree, Afterparty tells the story of Milo and Lola, two college friends who died right before graduating from college. Following their deaths, they were sent to Hell. However, as they were making their way through the bureaucracy, they learned of a loophole and challenged Satan himself for a chance to escape their eternal fate. In order to defeat the demon, the friends will have to out party the monarchs of hell and eventually the devil himself by drinking, dancing, and gaming their way through Hell. Afterparty hits PlayStation 4 on October 29. One of the last teases of State of Play came in the form of the upcoming lineup of free games for PlayStation Plus members during the month of October. The two games being given away for free will be MLB The Show 19 and The Last of Us Remastered. This will allow baseball fans to get their game on during the World Series and give PS Plus members the chance to catch up on The Last of Us before The Last of Us Part II releases next year. The Last of Us Part II - The last game of the broadcast, The Last of Us Part II stands as Sony's most anticipated first party title on the horizon. The new trailer gives fans a better look at what to expect from the story, though early reactions to the trailer seem to reflect disappointment with the direction the game seems to be taking the queer romance that featured prominently in the original reveal trailer. The latest story tidbit gives fans their first look at Joel, the protagonist from the first game. The Last of Us Part II releases on Feb 21, 2020. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  2. PlayStation broadcast its slate of titles that will be making their way to PlayStation 4 over the next several months via its State of Play platform. Today brought us tantalizing looks at new indie games like Humanity, Arise, a sweeping overview of PSVR games, and the AAA games coming out between now and early 2020. The State of Play also revealed the PS Plus games in store for October. Modeled after Nintendo's announcement and update series, Nintendo Direct, State of Play offers players a direct and digestible line of information on the latest games coming to Sony's flagship console. Here's everything that Sony revealed at their livestreamed event: Humanity - A new game from Enhance, the developer behind games like Rez and Tetris Effect. It appears to be some sort of puzzle game depicting the mass movement of people in both peaceful and violent ways. It's framed as a puzzle experience where the player guides streams of humans into pillars of light. Perhaps it is a commentary on some sort of afterlife? Humanity will be coming sometime in 2020. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare - State of Play revealed a new trailer focused on the story of the upcoming entry in the Call of Duty franchise. The story follows Captain Price, a brewing civil war in the Middle East, chemical weapons, and a US Embassy under attack. One of the main characters of the story appears to be the daughter and of a terrorist, their conflicting ideologies creating additional drama. The Special Ops Survival Mode, this game's co-op, will be coming to PlayStation 4 first. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare releases next month on October 25. Wattam - One of the more inexplicable games teased during the State of Play broadcast, Wattam comes from the creators of Katamari Damancy. It seems to be about shapes trying to be friends. Players are tasked with connecting reconnect various anthropomorphic shapes and characters and building up their relationships. A big part of this appears to be the primary character tipping its hat to reveal a present shaped bomb, a friendship kaboom, that explodes and spreads happiness. The game takes players across numerous worlds to spread love and kindness. It even allows singleand co-op play. Wattam will be coming to PlayStation 4 during December of this year. Arise - Coming as part of a joint endeavor from the folks at Techland and Piccolo, Arise seems to be a story about an old man navigating the afterlife. We're treated to scenes of him traveling through a snow filled wasteland, seemingly in pursuit of a light on a distant mountain. That journey leads him through vibrant forests and dark stretches that appear to be home to some kind of hostile force. While Arise was teased as coming soon, no date was announced. PlayStation VR games were shown in a rapid-fire manner, one right after the other. Viewers were treated to a good look at the drama, car chases, and gun fights of LA Noir: The VR Case Files, a game that Sony proudly announced was released today. The next game glimpsed was Gorn, a fantasy gladiator combat VR experience making its way from PC to PS4 sometime during Winter 2019. A thrilling spy adventure, Espire1: VR Operative, comes to the console later this month. Stardust Odyssey appears to be a fantastical space voyage through an imaginative universe on a mystical spacecraft, another Winter 2019 title. After the Fall is a VR game with monsters and mystery that will be releasing sometime in 2020. Finally, Space Channel 5 VR Kinda Funny News Flash brings a lighthearted and psychedelic dancing experience to VR sometime during Fall 2019. MediEvil - A demo launched today showcasing the revamped graphics and combat of the classic PlayStation 1 title. Playing through the demo will unlock a special hat in the full game. Sir Daniel rises again to fight evil and look better than ever this October. Sid Meier's Civilization VI - The popular strategic history game comes to PlayStation 4. It's supposedly a direct adaptation of the PC version. At launch, there will also be a bundle of the two expansions, Rise & Fall + Gathering Storm, will also be available. However, the bundle will be sold separately. The PlayStation 4 version will come with free Nubia + Khmer and Indonesia civilization & scenario packs. All of this hits stores on November 22. Death Stranding launches on November 8. Sony's State of Play announced that the game's launch would be accompanied by a limited edition PlayStation 4 Pro bundle the comes with the game, a custom PlayStation 4 Pro, and a unique controller design. Afterparty - An indie game from Night School, the developers behind the adventure game Oxenfree, Afterparty tells the story of Milo and Lola, two college friends who died right before graduating from college. Following their deaths, they were sent to Hell. However, as they were making their way through the bureaucracy, they learned of a loophole and challenged Satan himself for a chance to escape their eternal fate. In order to defeat the demon, the friends will have to out party the monarchs of hell and eventually the devil himself by drinking, dancing, and gaming their way through Hell. Afterparty hits PlayStation 4 on October 29. One of the last teases of State of Play came in the form of the upcoming lineup of free games for PlayStation Plus members during the month of October. The two games being given away for free will be MLB The Show 19 and The Last of Us Remastered. This will allow baseball fans to get their game on during the World Series and give PS Plus members the chance to catch up on The Last of Us before The Last of Us Part II releases next year. The Last of Us Part II - The last game of the broadcast, The Last of Us Part II stands as Sony's most anticipated first party title on the horizon. The new trailer gives fans a better look at what to expect from the story, though early reactions to the trailer seem to reflect disappointment with the direction the game seems to be taking the queer romance that featured prominently in the original reveal trailer. The latest story tidbit gives fans their first look at Joel, the protagonist from the first game. The Last of Us Part II releases on Feb 21, 2020. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  3. I love Shadow of the Colossus. It taps into something primordial in me that I find difficult to describe. From the time I was a kid until now, I have felt an affinity with monsters and the monstrous. The pantheon of Toho’s gargantuan beasts, the kaiju of Pacific Rim, the stop-motion creatures of Ray Harryhausen, they all carried the burdens of a young kid who often felt very much like a misunderstood or incomprehensible monster. These towering creatures were magical in their raw physicality, but made so much more important by the meaning they had attached to them by filmmakers and audiences alike. When I saw that a game about interacting with colossi like the ones I had grown attached to in my childhood, I leapt at the chance. From that point onward, I played Shadow of the Colossus on an almost yearly basis. The evolving experience of those recurring replays led me to one conclusion: Shadow of the Colossus is a narrative about the transgender experience – or at least it is to me. Part 1 – The Giant’s Text Before diving into the many interpretations of Shadow of the Colossus and what it has meant to the millions of people who have explored its beautifully desolate landscapes and done battle with its behemoths, we need to know what it is. Shadow of the Colossus is a third-person action-adventure game created by Fumito Ueda and the development studio Team Ico in 2005. Ueda and his team were hot off of creating Ico, one of the landmark games of the early 2000s that popularized the minimalist aesthetic that many developers have emulated in the years since. Only a handful of years after Ico, the team revealed Shadow of the Colossus as their follow-up project. Shadow of the Colossus took the minimalist aesthetic and puzzle-solving of Ico and translated it into a Legend of Zelda-esque adventure. It featured a sweeping open world to explore that bucked many of the conventions of the time. Instead of having enemies populating the landscape and NPCs to give additional context and direction – there was nothing. The world existed to be explored and experienced rather than fought against. Majestic and imposing ruins dotted the mysteriously abandoned countryside without explanation, the structures having long ago been left behind by whoever had once lived in the now forbidden lands. Fumito Ueda and his team cut all of the fat from the adventure genre and opted to focus on storytelling in an interactive context. That focus put a lot of emphasis on the handful of cutscenes that inform the narrative, the experience of journeying out into the world, and the encounters with the colossi themselves. Back in mid-2000s, the conventional wisdom surrounding cutscenes was that they existed as a necessary evil, taking control away from the player to move the story forward in a more controlled and linear fashion. Some critics took this as proof that games could not tell compelling stories in their own right; that the medium could not stand on its own. This was during the days when the “are video games art?” debate was still in full swing. Shadow of the Colossus attempted to subvert the problem of cutscenes by giving the player control of the camera witnessing the cutscenes themselves. Players were able to pan the shot around and zoom in to maintain the element of interactivity, while still receiving the linear context of the game. Continuity serves as one of the major elements in Shadow of the Colossus. How the game seamlessly connects the opening cutscene, the main menu, and the introductory sequence that plays when beginning a new game clearly demonstrates the commitment Team Ico had to making everything connect. Not only that, but all of these scenes play out entirely via in-game graphics, which was relatively uncommon on the PlayStation 2’s hardware. There was something magical about the presentation of these bits of story. No one else had made anything like it – they still haven’t really. It is through these scenes that Shadow of the Colossus conveys the bones of its story. The protagonist never receives a name within the western release of the game, but the Japanese release dubbed him Wander. Shadow of the Colossus begins with Wander journeying with his trusty steed Agro to the ends of the earth, to a forbidden land where the stories of his people whisper a being resides who can do anything, even bring back the souls of the dead. As he travels on horseback, Wander carries a woman swaddled in her death shroud. Like Wander, the she never receives a name in-game, but the Japanese version identifies her as Mono. Wander reaches the forbidden land, crossing its threshold, a massive bridge spanning an even larger desert. After an interlude in which the game’s main menu appears, Wander and Agro enter the crumbling ruins of a colossal shrine. In the heart of the gargantuan structure, Wander presents the body of Mono on a stone slab and encounters Dormin, an ancient entity that speaks to him in a chorus of disconcerting voices. At this point we learn that not only did Wander bring the body of Mono, but he also possesses a sacred blade that he stole from his people. The presence of the sword prompts Dormin to extend a deal: If Wander can kill the sixteen colossi that are the incarnations of the shrine’s statues, it will bring Mono back from the realm of the dead – though the cost to Wander, it warns, might be grave indeed. Thus begins Wander’s quest to destroy the colossi and resurrect Mono. Each colossus takes on a vastly different form and provides a unique encounter for the player. While Shadow of the Colossus is ostensibly an action-adventure game, it integrates the puzzle elements that made Ico so successful into the fights against the colossi. Each encounter becomes a puzzle to be solved using Wander’s small arsenal of tools and whatever happens to be present in the environment or on the colossus itself. However, once the player knows what they are doing, the strategy to defeat the colossus requires to execute. This leads us to one of the main sources of criticism leveled against Shadow of the Colossus: The difficulty of the controls. The camera can prove tricky to manipulate during hairy action segments due to the AI controls that were created to try and present the most cinematic angles during gameplay. The camera issues are compounded by the implementation of Agro’s horse AI. Most of the time, Agro controls fantastically after becoming accustomed to the beast’s limited amount of free-will. Players can allow the trusty companion to wend his own way through forests or rocky bridges. However, certain colossi necessitate using Agro in combat and this can lead to problems where Agro’s AI doesn’t quite control well enough to keep running away from colossi or overcompensates on turns, causing the player to veer wildly around the battlefield or come to a complete standstill in the path of an angry giant. Those valid criticisms aside, Shadow of the Colossus uses these colossi and the journey Wander undergoes with each of them to great effect. In 2005, there weren’t a ton of games that played with the framework of a Legend of Zelda game to present such an ambiguous tale open to interpretation. Each colossus possesses a different character, much like the kaiju mentioned earlier. Some exist as angry or territorial entities all too happy to rip Wander apart. Others simply mind their own business, leading Wander to provoke them or mercilessly hunt them down. Regardless of the experience, however, each colossi receives a slow-motion death sequence followed quickly by Wander being speared by dark energy that causes him to pass out and awaken in the central shrine About midway through the game, we learn in a cutscene that a force of warriors has been sent in pursuit of Wander. This group is led by Lord Emon, a character who briefly narrates some backstory about the forbidden land at the beginning of the game. It is around this point that players should also begin picking up that Wander does not look well. With each colossus slain, his body changes a little more. His skin takes on an ashen pallor, his eyes inch toward milky white, and horns begin sprouting from his head. This transformation is accompanied by increases to health and stamina, allowing Wander to take more damage and hang onto his giant adversaries for longer periods of time. Each colossi slain stands out as an invitation to engage in some self-reflection. Is killing the colossi the right thing to do? Are the changes to Wander’s body an indication of some sort of corruption? What does all of this mean? Because Shadow of the Colossus doesn’t feature any other enemies and simply tasks the player with navigating to the battlefield for each colossus encounter, plenty of time is made available to contemplate the questions that the game very intentionally raises. I would be remiss if I didn’t also point out that composer Kow Otani’s work in Shadow of the Colossus produced one of the finest video game soundtracks of all-time. The mysterious tones from the very beginning of the game give way to a wind-filled silence when the player begins to traverse the world. This absence of music makes it that much more moving when the lilting tones of awe and danger begin with each colossus discovered. That initial music gives way to sweeping orchestral beats that elevate each battle into the stuff of legends. Right at the apex of each fight, as Wander lands the killing blow, the music suddenly halts for a moment of silence before a somber liturgy sounds. It hammers home that each of these deaths represents the loss of something unique; whether the creature was peaceful or terrible becomes irrelevant. There are small things to do in the world outside of killing colossi. Players can find all of the prayer shrines that were used as save points in the original. There’s also a way to increase Wander’s health bar and stamina meter by finding special fruits and consuming the white tails of special salamanders scattered throughout the land. Outside of that, experimenting with the mechanics yields a number of interesting activities from horse surfing to holding onto birds and flying. One of the more interesting secrets involves increasing stamina to the point that Wander can successfully scale the central shrine’s tower and enter the secret garden that appears during the game’s epilogue. However, these activities are so subtle and well-hidden that most players won’t find all of them on their first playthrough or even realize they exist unless they are using a guide. As Wander nears the end of his journey, he and Agro go to confront the final colossus, but the trusty steed sacrifices itself to save its master from a crumbling bridge. Alone and in shock, Wander goes on to confront the final colossus. After a grueling battle and once more finding his body pierced with lances of black energy, we see that Lord Emon and his warriors have arrived at the shrine. They confront Wander, now a shambling husk of his former self. In his desperation to reach Mono, he tries to push through the soldiers, only to be greeted with a barrage of crossbow bolts and a sword through the chest. At this point, Dormin, unshackled by the destruction of all the idols lining the temple, possesses Wander’s body turning him into a shadowy colossus. What follows is a somewhat clumsy gameplay segment where the player controls one of the unwieldy beasts as the human characters scramble to seal the temple before Dormin can fully escape. After a short time, the desperate humans complete the magic ritual, sucking Wander and the reborn god into a shimmering pool of water. As Lord Emon and his troops flee, the towering bridge connecting the forbidden land to the outside world collapses behind them. As the situation in the central shrine settles, Mono opens her eyes. She takes her first tentative steps and finds herself drawn toward the sealing pool. As she walks toward the pool, Agro limps into the shrine, nuzzling her in familiarity. Upon reaching the pool, we see the water has all dried up and inside there remains no sign of Dormin or Wander. Instead, a small child with horns gurgles up at the now living woman. The three of them make their way up the central shrine’s spiral stair and emerge into the secret garden on the top of the shrine. There, she comes face to face with a fawn, the first and only of these animals we see in the entire game. If that seems like a strange ending, it is. I know that it left me stumped for a long time trying to figure out what it meant. I understood the series of events on a basic level, but what did the story mean? What was the deal with this baby? And the fawn? I didn’t have all of the answers, but the lack of having answers might just be why Shadow of the Colossus has stuck in my head for over a decade. My mind mulls it over with every replay; and the answers I find in the work change along with me. That’s how I found myself in recent playthroughs reading Shadow of the Colossus as a narrative about the transgender experience. Before we talk about that, we need to talk about how other people have interpreted Shadow of the Colossus. For such a seemingly simple (if a little weird) story, people have understood it in a number of really interesting ways. Part 2 – Reading Shadows There are many ways of reading media. In fact, that’s one of the things that makes art so great – it can mean many things to many people. The way people respond to and think about stories can make profound differences in individual lives or shape entire nations. How people have understood Shadow of the Colossus has evolved over time and, while it hasn’t changed the fate of nations (yet), it has certainly had an effect on game development and a sizeable number of the people who played it. From romance to a representation of grief to something akin to a religious experience, how people have thought about Shadow of the Colossus over time stands out as a fascinating journey all its own. The romantic reading of Shadow of the Colossus began before the game even released. The studio’s previous game, Ico, had received next to no marketing making its rise to prominence as a cult hit on word of mouth alone a surprise to Sony. The company would not repeat its mistake. The campaign they launched for Shadow of the Colossus was massive, strange, and eye-catching. In other words, it was perfectly suited to the spectacle of the game itself. An incredibly impressive and successful viral marketing push (worthy of a deep dive all its own) created multiple fake stories about the remains of ancient beings found scattered across the planet. However, to appeal to the mainstream gaming demographic, Shadow of the Colossus’ marketing team came up with two taglines. The first can be found on the back of the North American PlayStation 2 copy of the game itself, “Some mountains are scaled. Others are slain.” The other left a lasting impression in a massive series of print advertisements that spanned multiple pages and culminated in a huge foldout of the game’s sword-wielding colossus. The first panel read, “how far will you go for love?” a sentiment reflected on the back of both the North American and European releases which talk about Wander being motivated by love. The impression those lines left in the minds of the game’s audience ran deep. Between those two taglines, players went into Shadow of the Colossus with the expectation that it would be the epic fable of a young man slaying giants and saving the woman he loved. On a certain level, it’s not difficult to understand how someone could read Shadow of the Colossus that way. It displays many of the elements present in the classic stories of knights, damsels, and monsters. A young man with a magic sword traveling to a dangerous land to slay giants and save his lady-love certainly seems to fit in with the long history of human storytelling from Gilgamesh to Journey to the West to Le Morte d’Arthur. This reading, while easy to see if one squints at Shadow of the Colossus and tries their hardest, is wrong – or at the very least didn’t resonate with terribly many people. While doing some digging for this piece, I came across people who loved the tagline, but also didn’t feel as if it was really representative of Shadow of the Colossus. The back of the PlayStation 2 game’s box tells players that it’s a game about “undying love,” but if that’s the case, this is a story in which the two characters supposedly in love never speak to one another. With that interpretation in mind, Shadow of the Colossus could just as easily be a story about obsession since we only ever see one side of this love. Given how little that particular take seems to resonate with players, I think it’s safe to say that a better, deeper reading of Shadow of the Colossus exists. One of the more popular takes on the action-adventure title interprets Shadow of the Colossus as being about grieving. Reviewers and players alike come to this conclusion. “What was – and is – most impactful about Shadow of the Colossus is its sense of scale: the immensity not only of its dramatic ruins and the sad, beautiful colossi, but of the task at hand, and its themes of death, faith, longing and the destructive selfishness of grief,” writes Keza MacDonald in The Guardian’s review of the 2018 remake. In this reading, Shadow of the Colossus is about wanting something that’s forever beyond our reach. Breaking taboos in the pursuit of that impossible goal is not heroic in this context. Instead, Wander becomes a pitiable creature on a doomed quest. With each colossi slain, Wander descends deeper into grief while in pursuit of catharsis, but destroys something irreplaceable for his own selfish ends with every action he takes. It costs him his health, his best friend, and ultimately his life. His journey culminates in the resurrection of Dormin, a being who Lord Emon implies could wreak havoc across the world. Wander’s toxic approach to grieving endangers everyone around him. Looking at the game in this light, it begins to make more sense. During Dormin’s first conversation with Wander, the entity explains that the desperate man will have to pay a price on top of completing his seemingly impossible quest. Wander’s response takes on a more fatalistic connotation when read in the context of grief. “It doesn’t matter.” If you’ve ever been in the depths of despair, that state of mind in which it truly doesn’t matter whether or not something unspeakably awful happens, those words ring true. Instead of the plucky determination of a heroic adventurer, it becomes a cry for help – and Dormin eagerly leaps at the opportunity to take advantage of it. Far from being a powerful mindset, it opens up those in the midst of grief to all kinds of unscrupulous abuse. The manipulation of “Would you kindly” in BioShock blew many minds in 2007, but perhaps we should be more impressed with the subtle machinations of Dormin to maneuver a grief-struck young man into becoming the means for its resurrection. We as players are naturally predisposed to view games from the perspective of the protagonist. Whether they are doing something good or bad, we tend to root for them and want to see them achieve their goals. With this reading, while the player might never have the realization that Wander, and by extension us, have been manipulated into doing something that runs counter to Wander’s goal (i.e. freeing a powerful god and potentially dooming the world), the story of each fight and the deaths of each colossus reinforce the feeling that something is wrong. For all of their destructive power or intimidating size, we find ourselves caring for these gigantic beasts. The player often ends each battle on a colossi’s head, having gotten there by inflicting pain upon the creature, staring into their strangely innocent and curious eyes as their blade plunges into the massive body over and over again. The refusal to deal with the consequences of death, the refusal to properly grieve and move on, it is a choice that ultimately deadens Wander’s heart to the suffering he inflicts. But Shadow of the Colossus makes no moral judgement on this – instead it leaves it up to the player to contemplate the actions being taken by Wander on the long rides that separate each colossus from the central shrine. In an interview with Simon Parkin for The New Yorker, Fumito Ueda said something about the evolution of his aesthetic sensibilities that struck me, “When I got to university, there was a layer of culture shock that hit me. I began to learn about modern and abstract art. Until that time my drawings were more realistic in style. Then I was opened up to abstract images. I was encountering things I’ve never paid attention to or recognized before. I liked that, behind those abstract images, there was always an idea. That set me thinking about art in terms of ideas, rather than depictions.” The entire interview with Parkin presents a fascinating look into the life of one of the game industry’s most talented directors and I highly recommend it. While Ueda here was referring specifically to the visual style that would later go on to inform the look of his games, there’s something in it that rings true to what compels people to return to Shadow of the Colossus again and again. The surface-level simplicity of Shadow of the Colossus gives way to deep and profound possibilities. It can be read as a story about love, a tale of grief, or perhaps turned into a different text altogether, something that approaches the realm of religion. “In Shadow of the Colossus all you can do is stare at a ruined shrine in the middle of a desert, and wonder what it’s for,” wrote Craig Owens for Eurogamer back in 2013. Owen’s piece stands as an impressive work (that you should definitely read in its entirety) telling the story of a group of players who eschewed the explicit narrative of Shadow of the Colossus and sought to discover more about the world, creating their own tale in the process. These players formed theories and beliefs about how they might be able to discover a secret seventeenth colossus. They gathered together and wrote hundreds of pages worth of notes talking about their various interpretations of the sparse world lore and the possible implications. They spent hours running against walls and utilizing glitches to catapult themselves into otherwise unreachable areas. They lovingly explored and catalogued the bits of nature Team Ico hid away from the most likely routes to the sixteen official colossi. And when the emulated version of Shadow of the Colossus revealed that many of the old theories and beliefs weren’t true, players began exploring to see what could be found using the newly discovered glitches in the emulation. Over time, people began giving up on finding secrets that they were meant to find and shifted their interest into uncovering what might have been. The cut content from Shadow of the Colossus is legendary, as the full roster of colossi was once a whopping forty-eight instead of sixteen. However, what has become important to these people isn’t so much whether or not something actually exists buried in the game’s code. A Shadow of the Colossus hacker named Nomad gave this quote to Owen in 2013, “It was the search that was the thing. I like to say it's like a Rorschach test, people imprint whatever hopes and beliefs they have onto the vast empty landscapes and see secrets that aren't there - they just hope they are." It feels profound and central to what Shadow of the Colossus means and why it matters to people. It can be as small as a children’s fairytale or as large and important as a quest for the meaning of life itself. Part 3 – Shadow of the Colossus Is a Trans Narrative There exists a strain of thought when it comes to art that holds authorial intent supreme. Stories mean what their creators intended and reading anything else into the work stands as an act of baseless narcissism. That conception of art’s meaning held sway for a long time until academics began questioning it. After all, what happens when the creators aren’t around anymore to discuss their intent? Who can claim to know the mind of Homer or the unknown storytellers behind the Epic of Gilgamesh? Those questions eventually evolved into Roland Barthes’ influential 1967 literary essay The Death of the Author. In it, Barthes argues that assigning works of literature a single meaning linked with authorial intent represents a misunderstanding of art. Instead, the meaning derived from art resides in the interaction between the work and its audience. “Every text is written in the here and now,” wrote Barthes. Furthermore, he argued that knowing true authorial intent presents an impossibility. We cannot truly know the mind of even those closest to us, let alone creators who have lived across in different times and spaces. To try and elaborate on authorial intent, in fact, becomes an act of interpretation itself. Thus, the only meaningful interpretation that can be made exists between an audience and the text. Of course, Barthes’ theory has been built upon and criticized over time, but it presents a framework that supports the multifaceted interpretations of Shadow of the Colossus. I know, however, that many people balk at the ideas put forward in The Death of the Author. That makes it worth looking into creative director and writer Fumito Ueda’s ideas about the artistic work he created with the rest of Team Ico. At the 2017 Nordic Game Conference David Polfeldt, the managing director of Tom Clancy’s The Division, and Fumito Ueda held a discussion about game design. When the conversation turned toward whether Ueda’s games were intentionally designed to be somewhat inscrutable, Ueda offered an explanation: Ueda: For me, it's not important to tell the details of the story. In Japan, there is a poet expression called a haiku [where] you don't explain some things in detail and let the receivers understand or use their imagination with what is presented. That lets the receivers make their own story from their imagination, and I think this is also a good style of expression for video games - at this moment. In the future, someone may discover there's another way to do narrative and tell stories through gaming, but at this moment I think this is a great way to tell stories. Polfeldt: It certainly works well for me. In your games there are a lot of question marks, so they live with me longer. It makes me think about them in a different way. Ueda: That's good to hear because I intentionally do that. In some movies the story is so complete, there isn't any ending you can guess because it's already done. That type of movie doesn't leave a long-lasting impression. Fumito Ueda has nothing for those coming to him in search of authorial intent. Instead, he encourages players who love his games to search for their own meaning, their own answers to the questions posed in the work. In other words, create the meaning in Shadow of the Colossus for yourself; write the text in the here and now. Here, finally, is why Shadow of the Colossus exists as a trans narrative. My understanding of Shadow of the Colossus has grown along with me over the years. It always seemed to resonate with me in the way that towering kaiju like Godzilla always had. I never really examined why monsters resonated with me so much until I started unpacking the things I had repressed for most of my life. I’m a transgender woman, but as a kid I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t have anyone around me to explain what being trans was – I learned about trans people from daytime television where trans men and women were put on display as sexualized “surprises” or punchlines on programs like Maury or The Jerry Springer Show. It hammered home that the things I wanted for myself were impossible, and even if they were magically put within my grasp, I would become someone who was somehow lesser than my peers. I was, to my extremely flawed understanding, a monster. Of course, I don’t think that about myself anymore, or at least not when I’m happy; dealing with the onset of the body-warping self-perception called dysphoria can occasionally make me relapse into old thought processes. But that affinity for monsters persists. So, when I began allowing myself to explore all of my repressed thoughts and feelings about myself and gender back in 2015, my understanding of Shadow of the Colossus began to undergo a major shift. My reading of Shadow of the Colossus up until that point painted the game as a tale about processing grief. But as I began the difficult process of transitioning in 2017, I began to see parallels between my experiences and Shadow of the Colossus. I don’t think Fumito Ueda ever thought it might be read through a transgender lens, but it resonates with me in that context all the same. Transitioning, on some level, consists of breaking your old self down to the foundations. If you transition outside of youth, often you have an entire identity that has consisted of coping mechanisms that allow you to function in society. The things you enjoy, your reactions to social challenges, the way you process emotions, all of these things come into question. In order to discover the person inside who can stand tall and be comfortable in their skin, the difficult journey of transition involves starting over from scratch. Often, disposing of those mental gymnastics routines proves to be an incredibly painful process, like saying goodbye to old friends. You don’t begrudge them, but they have no place in the person you aim to become unless they are genuine – and you can only know if they are genuine once they are gone. All of this, for me, was accompanied by physical changes. From April of 2018 onward, I began taking hormones. The changes have been amazing and I am happier than I have ever been, but the process is incredibly difficult. It can, at times, feel like you’re on this long journey full of moments where you have to struggle and give up bits of yourself both mentally and physically. However, every step on that journey is easier than living with the growing sense of helplessness, desperation, and despondency of being a closeted trans woman in denial. That internalized sense of being a monster prevented me from talking about the things I was experiencing and the thoughts I was having. Instead, I tried to rationalize away my feelings and ignore the mounting depression and anxiety. I was still able to function, though there were days where doing anything more than rolling out of bed seemed impossible. But there were signs I was breaking down, signs I desperately wanted to disregard. Closeting myself caused my stress and anxiety to leak out at unimportant things – I remember punching a wall so hard that I put a small hole in it. That scared me, but I didn’t know what else I could do – actually taking hormones and having a body that didn’t feel like a fleshy prison seemed impossible. Then in early 2018 I learned that my friend Manan had taken his own life. We had seen one another a few months earlier when he had driven across the country to visit me, though we never got to run around the parking lot having a nerf gun battle like we had planned. The toy I was going to use still sits under my bed, unopened. Without going into too much detail, I learned about a handful of events leading up to his death and noticed a parallel. He, too, had refused to talk about what he was going through. It trapped him in a place where there was no escape. Manan wasn’t trans, but his passing made me realize that I was trapping myself. If I did nothing, I would one day take my life, too. In that way, Manan saved my life. I give you all of this extremely personal context so that you can understand how I can read Shadow of the Colossus in the way I do. I want to be very clear: I can’t speak for all trans folk out there. This interpretation is my own and other trans people out there almost assuredly have their own analysis of the text. In Shadow of the Colossus, Wander comes to the forbidden land in order to bring a woman, Mono, to life. For all of the strides that trans people have made over the years in the United States, we rarely have the support of our families – I know I don’t. In that sense, much like Wander, we enter a forbidden land when we transition and subvert the old understanding of the gender binary. Whether or not someone tells us explicitly, our society does an effective job policing what is and is not appropriate behavior for men and women and doesn’t even know where to start with fluid or non-binary folk. We become, in a sense, trespassers. Wander agrees to go on a mission that he understands will consume him, but he considers it worthwhile because the woman he has brought with him, the person seemingly beyond his reach, might be given life. So, Wander sets about the impossible task of destroying the colossi. Each huge beast possesses a different personality and set of limited behaviors. From the nicest to the most ferocious, they each possess a part of Dormin’s power, and Wander must slay them. To me, this reads as the incremental self-destruction that accompanies transition. The examination of the self and the death of those pieces which have no place in the life of a person living authentically, who doesn’t need to hide that they’re trespassing in the forbidden land by being trans. Each fight feels exhilarating, like the liberation of being one step closer to the person you were always meant to be, but each death is nonetheless punctuated by that bittersweet sense of loss as the colossus falls and the vulnerability of Dormin’s power piercing Wander’s exhausted body. With each slain colossi, Wander’s body changes. It becomes more powerful, but less comprehensible. This can be read as the alienation that many trans people can feel prior to or while in the middle of transitioning. For me, there are moments where being able to present more femininely can translate into extreme dysphoria when people don’t read me correctly as a woman. It’s the awareness of who I am and the effort I have put in and continue to put in to try to push my body into a place where I am happy with it and am recognized as a woman. Failing to hit that standard when all of that effort has gone into the attempt hurts. Buckle in, buckos, we have reached the matter of that curious ending. Wander returns to the central shrine one last time, only to encounter Lord Emon and his soldiers who strongly oppose the completion of Wander’s quest. I read this as the outside influences and individuals that try to keep trans people closeted. At this point, I see Wander as the trans person who has realized that they are, in fact, trans, but fears the final steps of transition. That could be coming out to others, a huge hurdle for many trans folk, or a more existential fear about how taking hormones will forever alter the course of their life. The situation escalates and Lord Emon’s soldiers attempt to kill Wander, plunging a sword through his crossbow bolt-riddled body. This oppression, however, does not stop Wander. Instead, Dormin merges with the young warrior and we come to the final crisis point. I can’t help but see the moment where Wander becomes lost in darkness as the point I came to when I realized that I could either die alone or take the final steps to transition. There wasn’t wiggle room for me to exist in a comfortable middle ground. I was going to lose things and people that were important to me, and that was scary but not as chilling as death. Lord Emon and his retinue flee, leaving a sealing spell behind them as they exit the central shrine. The spell sucks Dormin and Wander into a pool of shimmering water and everything seems to calm down as the bridge outside collapses. This reads as a crossing of the Rubicon for trans people. Wander is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Transition has broken the old coping mechanisms down to the foundations. There is no going back. And then Mono opens her eyes. Wander’s entire journey reads as a metaphor for transition. Trans people often find themselves making so many sacrifices to survive, for the simple privilege of being comfortable in our skins. And with his death, Wander gives life to the woman who has been with him the entire time, but always unreachable. Agro, Wander’s former companion steed who fell by the wayside, returns to Mono and together they discover the horned baby. The baby always seemed odd and out of place in my previous readings of Shadow of the Colossus, but now I see it as a sign or rebirth and continuity. Wander is gone, but he continues on through Mono. After this, Mono, Agro, and the baby make their way to the top of the shrine and find themselves face to face with a fawn. We are meant to understand that fawn as a sign that things are going to be okay. If something as pure and good as that fawn can exist in the forbidden land, Mono will be able to thrive in a similar state. Everything will be okay, there is a light at the end of this long, dark, and lonely tunnel where that unreachable woman, man, or enby will open their eyes and live. --- James Mielke was talking with Sony product manager Mark Valledor back in a 2005 piece for the now defunct 1UP website in the lead-up to Shadow of the Colossus’ release. The two were discussing the remarkable ad campaign for the game, the one that stuck in the heads of those who were around to witness it over a decade ago. “It's a kind of return to innocence isn't it?” Mielke observed. “You've got all these games out there that are about super-realism, how much ammo you can spend getting through a level, or just really nihilistic stuff. Shadow brings it back to somewhere completely different. To be able to experience something like this is really special.” People keep coming back to Shadow of the Colossus. Year after year, remaster and remake, people can’t get enough of the world Team Ico crafted and the tale they forged. The flexibility of that story, the numerous meanings Shadow of the Colossus takes on, is the secret. It is what allows the film Reign Over Me to use the game as a parallel for a character’s grief and Sony’s marketing department to bill it as one of the greatest romance games of all-time. There aren’t many games that tell explicitly trans stories. The indie scene has seen a rise in them over the last few years with titles like A Normal Lost Phone and We Know the Devil, but outside of that space trans people remain largely absent from mainstream gaming. It’s no surprise, then, that when I transitioned I began looking more closely at games to find something in which I could see a fragment of myself. The mythic nature of Shadow of the Colossus invited a close reading. The story was like the abstract art that fascinated Ueda in his university days. It unfolded itself to accommodate me in a way no other game really could. Its implications of depth and meaning always felt like the massive creatures, the ongoing struggles, and even Mono herself had more to account for than mainstream interpretations provided. Shadow of the Colossus is about the struggle of trans people. For me, this works. If you haven’t yet, we encourage you to sign up to participate in Extra Life this year. If you are looking for a team to join or just want to make a contribution, be sure to check out Team Allison. Allison’s team will be dedicating June 22-23 (HEY THAT'S RIGHT NOW!) to play games and bring in donations from supporters and friends. Maybe even a friend like you? View full article
  4. I love Shadow of the Colossus. It taps into something primordial in me that I find difficult to describe. From the time I was a kid until now, I have felt an affinity with monsters and the monstrous. The pantheon of Toho’s gargantuan beasts, the kaiju of Pacific Rim, the stop-motion creatures of Ray Harryhausen, they all carried the burdens of a young kid who often felt very much like a misunderstood or incomprehensible monster. These towering creatures were magical in their raw physicality, but made so much more important by the meaning they had attached to them by filmmakers and audiences alike. When I saw that a game about interacting with colossi like the ones I had grown attached to in my childhood, I leapt at the chance. From that point onward, I played Shadow of the Colossus on an almost yearly basis. The evolving experience of those recurring replays led me to one conclusion: Shadow of the Colossus is a narrative about the transgender experience – or at least it is to me. Part 1 – The Giant’s Text Before diving into the many interpretations of Shadow of the Colossus and what it has meant to the millions of people who have explored its beautifully desolate landscapes and done battle with its behemoths, we need to know what it is. Shadow of the Colossus is a third-person action-adventure game created by Fumito Ueda and the development studio Team Ico in 2005. Ueda and his team were hot off of creating Ico, one of the landmark games of the early 2000s that popularized the minimalist aesthetic that many developers have emulated in the years since. Only a handful of years after Ico, the team revealed Shadow of the Colossus as their follow-up project. Shadow of the Colossus took the minimalist aesthetic and puzzle-solving of Ico and translated it into a Legend of Zelda-esque adventure. It featured a sweeping open world to explore that bucked many of the conventions of the time. Instead of having enemies populating the landscape and NPCs to give additional context and direction – there was nothing. The world existed to be explored and experienced rather than fought against. Majestic and imposing ruins dotted the mysteriously abandoned countryside without explanation, the structures having long ago been left behind by whoever had once lived in the now forbidden lands. Fumito Ueda and his team cut all of the fat from the adventure genre and opted to focus on storytelling in an interactive context. That focus put a lot of emphasis on the handful of cutscenes that inform the narrative, the experience of journeying out into the world, and the encounters with the colossi themselves. Back in mid-2000s, the conventional wisdom surrounding cutscenes was that they existed as a necessary evil, taking control away from the player to move the story forward in a more controlled and linear fashion. Some critics took this as proof that games could not tell compelling stories in their own right; that the medium could not stand on its own. This was during the days when the “are video games art?” debate was still in full swing. Shadow of the Colossus attempted to subvert the problem of cutscenes by giving the player control of the camera witnessing the cutscenes themselves. Players were able to pan the shot around and zoom in to maintain the element of interactivity, while still receiving the linear context of the game. Continuity serves as one of the major elements in Shadow of the Colossus. How the game seamlessly connects the opening cutscene, the main menu, and the introductory sequence that plays when beginning a new game clearly demonstrates the commitment Team Ico had to making everything connect. Not only that, but all of these scenes play out entirely via in-game graphics, which was relatively uncommon on the PlayStation 2’s hardware. There was something magical about the presentation of these bits of story. No one else had made anything like it – they still haven’t really. It is through these scenes that Shadow of the Colossus conveys the bones of its story. The protagonist never receives a name within the western release of the game, but the Japanese release dubbed him Wander. Shadow of the Colossus begins with Wander journeying with his trusty steed Agro to the ends of the earth, to a forbidden land where the stories of his people whisper a being resides who can do anything, even bring back the souls of the dead. As he travels on horseback, Wander carries a woman swaddled in her death shroud. Like Wander, the she never receives a name in-game, but the Japanese version identifies her as Mono. Wander reaches the forbidden land, crossing its threshold, a massive bridge spanning an even larger desert. After an interlude in which the game’s main menu appears, Wander and Agro enter the crumbling ruins of a colossal shrine. In the heart of the gargantuan structure, Wander presents the body of Mono on a stone slab and encounters Dormin, an ancient entity that speaks to him in a chorus of disconcerting voices. At this point we learn that not only did Wander bring the body of Mono, but he also possesses a sacred blade that he stole from his people. The presence of the sword prompts Dormin to extend a deal: If Wander can kill the sixteen colossi that are the incarnations of the shrine’s statues, it will bring Mono back from the realm of the dead – though the cost to Wander, it warns, might be grave indeed. Thus begins Wander’s quest to destroy the colossi and resurrect Mono. Each colossus takes on a vastly different form and provides a unique encounter for the player. While Shadow of the Colossus is ostensibly an action-adventure game, it integrates the puzzle elements that made Ico so successful into the fights against the colossi. Each encounter becomes a puzzle to be solved using Wander’s small arsenal of tools and whatever happens to be present in the environment or on the colossus itself. However, once the player knows what they are doing, the strategy to defeat the colossus requires to execute. This leads us to one of the main sources of criticism leveled against Shadow of the Colossus: The difficulty of the controls. The camera can prove tricky to manipulate during hairy action segments due to the AI controls that were created to try and present the most cinematic angles during gameplay. The camera issues are compounded by the implementation of Agro’s horse AI. Most of the time, Agro controls fantastically after becoming accustomed to the beast’s limited amount of free-will. Players can allow the trusty companion to wend his own way through forests or rocky bridges. However, certain colossi necessitate using Agro in combat and this can lead to problems where Agro’s AI doesn’t quite control well enough to keep running away from colossi or overcompensates on turns, causing the player to veer wildly around the battlefield or come to a complete standstill in the path of an angry giant. Those valid criticisms aside, Shadow of the Colossus uses these colossi and the journey Wander undergoes with each of them to great effect. In 2005, there weren’t a ton of games that played with the framework of a Legend of Zelda game to present such an ambiguous tale open to interpretation. Each colossus possesses a different character, much like the kaiju mentioned earlier. Some exist as angry or territorial entities all too happy to rip Wander apart. Others simply mind their own business, leading Wander to provoke them or mercilessly hunt them down. Regardless of the experience, however, each colossi receives a slow-motion death sequence followed quickly by Wander being speared by dark energy that causes him to pass out and awaken in the central shrine About midway through the game, we learn in a cutscene that a force of warriors has been sent in pursuit of Wander. This group is led by Lord Emon, a character who briefly narrates some backstory about the forbidden land at the beginning of the game. It is around this point that players should also begin picking up that Wander does not look well. With each colossus slain, his body changes a little more. His skin takes on an ashen pallor, his eyes inch toward milky white, and horns begin sprouting from his head. This transformation is accompanied by increases to health and stamina, allowing Wander to take more damage and hang onto his giant adversaries for longer periods of time. Each colossi slain stands out as an invitation to engage in some self-reflection. Is killing the colossi the right thing to do? Are the changes to Wander’s body an indication of some sort of corruption? What does all of this mean? Because Shadow of the Colossus doesn’t feature any other enemies and simply tasks the player with navigating to the battlefield for each colossus encounter, plenty of time is made available to contemplate the questions that the game very intentionally raises. I would be remiss if I didn’t also point out that composer Kow Otani’s work in Shadow of the Colossus produced one of the finest video game soundtracks of all-time. The mysterious tones from the very beginning of the game give way to a wind-filled silence when the player begins to traverse the world. This absence of music makes it that much more moving when the lilting tones of awe and danger begin with each colossus discovered. That initial music gives way to sweeping orchestral beats that elevate each battle into the stuff of legends. Right at the apex of each fight, as Wander lands the killing blow, the music suddenly halts for a moment of silence before a somber liturgy sounds. It hammers home that each of these deaths represents the loss of something unique; whether the creature was peaceful or terrible becomes irrelevant. There are small things to do in the world outside of killing colossi. Players can find all of the prayer shrines that were used as save points in the original. There’s also a way to increase Wander’s health bar and stamina meter by finding special fruits and consuming the white tails of special salamanders scattered throughout the land. Outside of that, experimenting with the mechanics yields a number of interesting activities from horse surfing to holding onto birds and flying. One of the more interesting secrets involves increasing stamina to the point that Wander can successfully scale the central shrine’s tower and enter the secret garden that appears during the game’s epilogue. However, these activities are so subtle and well-hidden that most players won’t find all of them on their first playthrough or even realize they exist unless they are using a guide. As Wander nears the end of his journey, he and Agro go to confront the final colossus, but the trusty steed sacrifices itself to save its master from a crumbling bridge. Alone and in shock, Wander goes on to confront the final colossus. After a grueling battle and once more finding his body pierced with lances of black energy, we see that Lord Emon and his warriors have arrived at the shrine. They confront Wander, now a shambling husk of his former self. In his desperation to reach Mono, he tries to push through the soldiers, only to be greeted with a barrage of crossbow bolts and a sword through the chest. At this point, Dormin, unshackled by the destruction of all the idols lining the temple, possesses Wander’s body turning him into a shadowy colossus. What follows is a somewhat clumsy gameplay segment where the player controls one of the unwieldy beasts as the human characters scramble to seal the temple before Dormin can fully escape. After a short time, the desperate humans complete the magic ritual, sucking Wander and the reborn god into a shimmering pool of water. As Lord Emon and his troops flee, the towering bridge connecting the forbidden land to the outside world collapses behind them. As the situation in the central shrine settles, Mono opens her eyes. She takes her first tentative steps and finds herself drawn toward the sealing pool. As she walks toward the pool, Agro limps into the shrine, nuzzling her in familiarity. Upon reaching the pool, we see the water has all dried up and inside there remains no sign of Dormin or Wander. Instead, a small child with horns gurgles up at the now living woman. The three of them make their way up the central shrine’s spiral stair and emerge into the secret garden on the top of the shrine. There, she comes face to face with a fawn, the first and only of these animals we see in the entire game. If that seems like a strange ending, it is. I know that it left me stumped for a long time trying to figure out what it meant. I understood the series of events on a basic level, but what did the story mean? What was the deal with this baby? And the fawn? I didn’t have all of the answers, but the lack of having answers might just be why Shadow of the Colossus has stuck in my head for over a decade. My mind mulls it over with every replay; and the answers I find in the work change along with me. That’s how I found myself in recent playthroughs reading Shadow of the Colossus as a narrative about the transgender experience. Before we talk about that, we need to talk about how other people have interpreted Shadow of the Colossus. For such a seemingly simple (if a little weird) story, people have understood it in a number of really interesting ways. Part 2 – Reading Shadows There are many ways of reading media. In fact, that’s one of the things that makes art so great – it can mean many things to many people. The way people respond to and think about stories can make profound differences in individual lives or shape entire nations. How people have understood Shadow of the Colossus has evolved over time and, while it hasn’t changed the fate of nations (yet), it has certainly had an effect on game development and a sizeable number of the people who played it. From romance to a representation of grief to something akin to a religious experience, how people have thought about Shadow of the Colossus over time stands out as a fascinating journey all its own. The romantic reading of Shadow of the Colossus began before the game even released. The studio’s previous game, Ico, had received next to no marketing making its rise to prominence as a cult hit on word of mouth alone a surprise to Sony. The company would not repeat its mistake. The campaign they launched for Shadow of the Colossus was massive, strange, and eye-catching. In other words, it was perfectly suited to the spectacle of the game itself. An incredibly impressive and successful viral marketing push (worthy of a deep dive all its own) created multiple fake stories about the remains of ancient beings found scattered across the planet. However, to appeal to the mainstream gaming demographic, Shadow of the Colossus’ marketing team came up with two taglines. The first can be found on the back of the North American PlayStation 2 copy of the game itself, “Some mountains are scaled. Others are slain.” The other left a lasting impression in a massive series of print advertisements that spanned multiple pages and culminated in a huge foldout of the game’s sword-wielding colossus. The first panel read, “how far will you go for love?” a sentiment reflected on the back of both the North American and European releases which talk about Wander being motivated by love. The impression those lines left in the minds of the game’s audience ran deep. Between those two taglines, players went into Shadow of the Colossus with the expectation that it would be the epic fable of a young man slaying giants and saving the woman he loved. On a certain level, it’s not difficult to understand how someone could read Shadow of the Colossus that way. It displays many of the elements present in the classic stories of knights, damsels, and monsters. A young man with a magic sword traveling to a dangerous land to slay giants and save his lady-love certainly seems to fit in with the long history of human storytelling from Gilgamesh to Journey to the West to Le Morte d’Arthur. This reading, while easy to see if one squints at Shadow of the Colossus and tries their hardest, is wrong – or at the very least didn’t resonate with terribly many people. While doing some digging for this piece, I came across people who loved the tagline, but also didn’t feel as if it was really representative of Shadow of the Colossus. The back of the PlayStation 2 game’s box tells players that it’s a game about “undying love,” but if that’s the case, this is a story in which the two characters supposedly in love never speak to one another. With that interpretation in mind, Shadow of the Colossus could just as easily be a story about obsession since we only ever see one side of this love. Given how little that particular take seems to resonate with players, I think it’s safe to say that a better, deeper reading of Shadow of the Colossus exists. One of the more popular takes on the action-adventure title interprets Shadow of the Colossus as being about grieving. Reviewers and players alike come to this conclusion. “What was – and is – most impactful about Shadow of the Colossus is its sense of scale: the immensity not only of its dramatic ruins and the sad, beautiful colossi, but of the task at hand, and its themes of death, faith, longing and the destructive selfishness of grief,” writes Keza MacDonald in The Guardian’s review of the 2018 remake. In this reading, Shadow of the Colossus is about wanting something that’s forever beyond our reach. Breaking taboos in the pursuit of that impossible goal is not heroic in this context. Instead, Wander becomes a pitiable creature on a doomed quest. With each colossi slain, Wander descends deeper into grief while in pursuit of catharsis, but destroys something irreplaceable for his own selfish ends with every action he takes. It costs him his health, his best friend, and ultimately his life. His journey culminates in the resurrection of Dormin, a being who Lord Emon implies could wreak havoc across the world. Wander’s toxic approach to grieving endangers everyone around him. Looking at the game in this light, it begins to make more sense. During Dormin’s first conversation with Wander, the entity explains that the desperate man will have to pay a price on top of completing his seemingly impossible quest. Wander’s response takes on a more fatalistic connotation when read in the context of grief. “It doesn’t matter.” If you’ve ever been in the depths of despair, that state of mind in which it truly doesn’t matter whether or not something unspeakably awful happens, those words ring true. Instead of the plucky determination of a heroic adventurer, it becomes a cry for help – and Dormin eagerly leaps at the opportunity to take advantage of it. Far from being a powerful mindset, it opens up those in the midst of grief to all kinds of unscrupulous abuse. The manipulation of “Would you kindly” in BioShock blew many minds in 2007, but perhaps we should be more impressed with the subtle machinations of Dormin to maneuver a grief-struck young man into becoming the means for its resurrection. We as players are naturally predisposed to view games from the perspective of the protagonist. Whether they are doing something good or bad, we tend to root for them and want to see them achieve their goals. With this reading, while the player might never have the realization that Wander, and by extension us, have been manipulated into doing something that runs counter to Wander’s goal (i.e. freeing a powerful god and potentially dooming the world), the story of each fight and the deaths of each colossus reinforce the feeling that something is wrong. For all of their destructive power or intimidating size, we find ourselves caring for these gigantic beasts. The player often ends each battle on a colossi’s head, having gotten there by inflicting pain upon the creature, staring into their strangely innocent and curious eyes as their blade plunges into the massive body over and over again. The refusal to deal with the consequences of death, the refusal to properly grieve and move on, it is a choice that ultimately deadens Wander’s heart to the suffering he inflicts. But Shadow of the Colossus makes no moral judgement on this – instead it leaves it up to the player to contemplate the actions being taken by Wander on the long rides that separate each colossus from the central shrine. In an interview with Simon Parkin for The New Yorker, Fumito Ueda said something about the evolution of his aesthetic sensibilities that struck me, “When I got to university, there was a layer of culture shock that hit me. I began to learn about modern and abstract art. Until that time my drawings were more realistic in style. Then I was opened up to abstract images. I was encountering things I’ve never paid attention to or recognized before. I liked that, behind those abstract images, there was always an idea. That set me thinking about art in terms of ideas, rather than depictions.” The entire interview with Parkin presents a fascinating look into the life of one of the game industry’s most talented directors and I highly recommend it. While Ueda here was referring specifically to the visual style that would later go on to inform the look of his games, there’s something in it that rings true to what compels people to return to Shadow of the Colossus again and again. The surface-level simplicity of Shadow of the Colossus gives way to deep and profound possibilities. It can be read as a story about love, a tale of grief, or perhaps turned into a different text altogether, something that approaches the realm of religion. “In Shadow of the Colossus all you can do is stare at a ruined shrine in the middle of a desert, and wonder what it’s for,” wrote Craig Owens for Eurogamer back in 2013. Owen’s piece stands as an impressive work (that you should definitely read in its entirety) telling the story of a group of players who eschewed the explicit narrative of Shadow of the Colossus and sought to discover more about the world, creating their own tale in the process. These players formed theories and beliefs about how they might be able to discover a secret seventeenth colossus. They gathered together and wrote hundreds of pages worth of notes talking about their various interpretations of the sparse world lore and the possible implications. They spent hours running against walls and utilizing glitches to catapult themselves into otherwise unreachable areas. They lovingly explored and catalogued the bits of nature Team Ico hid away from the most likely routes to the sixteen official colossi. And when the emulated version of Shadow of the Colossus revealed that many of the old theories and beliefs weren’t true, players began exploring to see what could be found using the newly discovered glitches in the emulation. Over time, people began giving up on finding secrets that they were meant to find and shifted their interest into uncovering what might have been. The cut content from Shadow of the Colossus is legendary, as the full roster of colossi was once a whopping forty-eight instead of sixteen. However, what has become important to these people isn’t so much whether or not something actually exists buried in the game’s code. A Shadow of the Colossus hacker named Nomad gave this quote to Owen in 2013, “It was the search that was the thing. I like to say it's like a Rorschach test, people imprint whatever hopes and beliefs they have onto the vast empty landscapes and see secrets that aren't there - they just hope they are." It feels profound and central to what Shadow of the Colossus means and why it matters to people. It can be as small as a children’s fairytale or as large and important as a quest for the meaning of life itself. Part 3 – Shadow of the Colossus Is a Trans Narrative There exists a strain of thought when it comes to art that holds authorial intent supreme. Stories mean what their creators intended and reading anything else into the work stands as an act of baseless narcissism. That conception of art’s meaning held sway for a long time until academics began questioning it. After all, what happens when the creators aren’t around anymore to discuss their intent? Who can claim to know the mind of Homer or the unknown storytellers behind the Epic of Gilgamesh? Those questions eventually evolved into Roland Barthes’ influential 1967 literary essay The Death of the Author. In it, Barthes argues that assigning works of literature a single meaning linked with authorial intent represents a misunderstanding of art. Instead, the meaning derived from art resides in the interaction between the work and its audience. “Every text is written in the here and now,” wrote Barthes. Furthermore, he argued that knowing true authorial intent presents an impossibility. We cannot truly know the mind of even those closest to us, let alone creators who have lived across in different times and spaces. To try and elaborate on authorial intent, in fact, becomes an act of interpretation itself. Thus, the only meaningful interpretation that can be made exists between an audience and the text. Of course, Barthes’ theory has been built upon and criticized over time, but it presents a framework that supports the multifaceted interpretations of Shadow of the Colossus. I know, however, that many people balk at the ideas put forward in The Death of the Author. That makes it worth looking into creative director and writer Fumito Ueda’s ideas about the artistic work he created with the rest of Team Ico. At the 2017 Nordic Game Conference David Polfeldt, the managing director of Tom Clancy’s The Division, and Fumito Ueda held a discussion about game design. When the conversation turned toward whether Ueda’s games were intentionally designed to be somewhat inscrutable, Ueda offered an explanation: Ueda: For me, it's not important to tell the details of the story. In Japan, there is a poet expression called a haiku [where] you don't explain some things in detail and let the receivers understand or use their imagination with what is presented. That lets the receivers make their own story from their imagination, and I think this is also a good style of expression for video games - at this moment. In the future, someone may discover there's another way to do narrative and tell stories through gaming, but at this moment I think this is a great way to tell stories. Polfeldt: It certainly works well for me. In your games there are a lot of question marks, so they live with me longer. It makes me think about them in a different way. Ueda: That's good to hear because I intentionally do that. In some movies the story is so complete, there isn't any ending you can guess because it's already done. That type of movie doesn't leave a long-lasting impression. Fumito Ueda has nothing for those coming to him in search of authorial intent. Instead, he encourages players who love his games to search for their own meaning, their own answers to the questions posed in the work. In other words, create the meaning in Shadow of the Colossus for yourself; write the text in the here and now. Here, finally, is why Shadow of the Colossus exists as a trans narrative. My understanding of Shadow of the Colossus has grown along with me over the years. It always seemed to resonate with me in the way that towering kaiju like Godzilla always had. I never really examined why monsters resonated with me so much until I started unpacking the things I had repressed for most of my life. I’m a transgender woman, but as a kid I didn’t know what that meant. I didn’t have anyone around me to explain what being trans was – I learned about trans people from daytime television where trans men and women were put on display as sexualized “surprises” or punchlines on programs like Maury or The Jerry Springer Show. It hammered home that the things I wanted for myself were impossible, and even if they were magically put within my grasp, I would become someone who was somehow lesser than my peers. I was, to my extremely flawed understanding, a monster. Of course, I don’t think that about myself anymore, or at least not when I’m happy; dealing with the onset of the body-warping self-perception called dysphoria can occasionally make me relapse into old thought processes. But that affinity for monsters persists. So, when I began allowing myself to explore all of my repressed thoughts and feelings about myself and gender back in 2015, my understanding of Shadow of the Colossus began to undergo a major shift. My reading of Shadow of the Colossus up until that point painted the game as a tale about processing grief. But as I began the difficult process of transitioning in 2017, I began to see parallels between my experiences and Shadow of the Colossus. I don’t think Fumito Ueda ever thought it might be read through a transgender lens, but it resonates with me in that context all the same. Transitioning, on some level, consists of breaking your old self down to the foundations. If you transition outside of youth, often you have an entire identity that has consisted of coping mechanisms that allow you to function in society. The things you enjoy, your reactions to social challenges, the way you process emotions, all of these things come into question. In order to discover the person inside who can stand tall and be comfortable in their skin, the difficult journey of transition involves starting over from scratch. Often, disposing of those mental gymnastics routines proves to be an incredibly painful process, like saying goodbye to old friends. You don’t begrudge them, but they have no place in the person you aim to become unless they are genuine – and you can only know if they are genuine once they are gone. All of this, for me, was accompanied by physical changes. From April of 2018 onward, I began taking hormones. The changes have been amazing and I am happier than I have ever been, but the process is incredibly difficult. It can, at times, feel like you’re on this long journey full of moments where you have to struggle and give up bits of yourself both mentally and physically. However, every step on that journey is easier than living with the growing sense of helplessness, desperation, and despondency of being a closeted trans woman in denial. That internalized sense of being a monster prevented me from talking about the things I was experiencing and the thoughts I was having. Instead, I tried to rationalize away my feelings and ignore the mounting depression and anxiety. I was still able to function, though there were days where doing anything more than rolling out of bed seemed impossible. But there were signs I was breaking down, signs I desperately wanted to disregard. Closeting myself caused my stress and anxiety to leak out at unimportant things – I remember punching a wall so hard that I put a small hole in it. That scared me, but I didn’t know what else I could do – actually taking hormones and having a body that didn’t feel like a fleshy prison seemed impossible. Then in early 2018 I learned that my friend Manan had taken his own life. We had seen one another a few months earlier when he had driven across the country to visit me, though we never got to run around the parking lot having a nerf gun battle like we had planned. The toy I was going to use still sits under my bed, unopened. Without going into too much detail, I learned about a handful of events leading up to his death and noticed a parallel. He, too, had refused to talk about what he was going through. It trapped him in a place where there was no escape. Manan wasn’t trans, but his passing made me realize that I was trapping myself. If I did nothing, I would one day take my life, too. In that way, Manan saved my life. I give you all of this extremely personal context so that you can understand how I can read Shadow of the Colossus in the way I do. I want to be very clear: I can’t speak for all trans folk out there. This interpretation is my own and other trans people out there almost assuredly have their own analysis of the text. In Shadow of the Colossus, Wander comes to the forbidden land in order to bring a woman, Mono, to life. For all of the strides that trans people have made over the years in the United States, we rarely have the support of our families – I know I don’t. In that sense, much like Wander, we enter a forbidden land when we transition and subvert the old understanding of the gender binary. Whether or not someone tells us explicitly, our society does an effective job policing what is and is not appropriate behavior for men and women and doesn’t even know where to start with fluid or non-binary folk. We become, in a sense, trespassers. Wander agrees to go on a mission that he understands will consume him, but he considers it worthwhile because the woman he has brought with him, the person seemingly beyond his reach, might be given life. So, Wander sets about the impossible task of destroying the colossi. Each huge beast possesses a different personality and set of limited behaviors. From the nicest to the most ferocious, they each possess a part of Dormin’s power, and Wander must slay them. To me, this reads as the incremental self-destruction that accompanies transition. The examination of the self and the death of those pieces which have no place in the life of a person living authentically, who doesn’t need to hide that they’re trespassing in the forbidden land by being trans. Each fight feels exhilarating, like the liberation of being one step closer to the person you were always meant to be, but each death is nonetheless punctuated by that bittersweet sense of loss as the colossus falls and the vulnerability of Dormin’s power piercing Wander’s exhausted body. With each slain colossi, Wander’s body changes. It becomes more powerful, but less comprehensible. This can be read as the alienation that many trans people can feel prior to or while in the middle of transitioning. For me, there are moments where being able to present more femininely can translate into extreme dysphoria when people don’t read me correctly as a woman. It’s the awareness of who I am and the effort I have put in and continue to put in to try to push my body into a place where I am happy with it and am recognized as a woman. Failing to hit that standard when all of that effort has gone into the attempt hurts. Buckle in, buckos, we have reached the matter of that curious ending. Wander returns to the central shrine one last time, only to encounter Lord Emon and his soldiers who strongly oppose the completion of Wander’s quest. I read this as the outside influences and individuals that try to keep trans people closeted. At this point, I see Wander as the trans person who has realized that they are, in fact, trans, but fears the final steps of transition. That could be coming out to others, a huge hurdle for many trans folk, or a more existential fear about how taking hormones will forever alter the course of their life. The situation escalates and Lord Emon’s soldiers attempt to kill Wander, plunging a sword through his crossbow bolt-riddled body. This oppression, however, does not stop Wander. Instead, Dormin merges with the young warrior and we come to the final crisis point. I can’t help but see the moment where Wander becomes lost in darkness as the point I came to when I realized that I could either die alone or take the final steps to transition. There wasn’t wiggle room for me to exist in a comfortable middle ground. I was going to lose things and people that were important to me, and that was scary but not as chilling as death. Lord Emon and his retinue flee, leaving a sealing spell behind them as they exit the central shrine. The spell sucks Dormin and Wander into a pool of shimmering water and everything seems to calm down as the bridge outside collapses. This reads as a crossing of the Rubicon for trans people. Wander is, for all intents and purposes, dead. Transition has broken the old coping mechanisms down to the foundations. There is no going back. And then Mono opens her eyes. Wander’s entire journey reads as a metaphor for transition. Trans people often find themselves making so many sacrifices to survive, for the simple privilege of being comfortable in our skins. And with his death, Wander gives life to the woman who has been with him the entire time, but always unreachable. Agro, Wander’s former companion steed who fell by the wayside, returns to Mono and together they discover the horned baby. The baby always seemed odd and out of place in my previous readings of Shadow of the Colossus, but now I see it as a sign or rebirth and continuity. Wander is gone, but he continues on through Mono. After this, Mono, Agro, and the baby make their way to the top of the shrine and find themselves face to face with a fawn. We are meant to understand that fawn as a sign that things are going to be okay. If something as pure and good as that fawn can exist in the forbidden land, Mono will be able to thrive in a similar state. Everything will be okay, there is a light at the end of this long, dark, and lonely tunnel where that unreachable woman, man, or enby will open their eyes and live. --- James Mielke was talking with Sony product manager Mark Valledor back in a 2005 piece for the now defunct 1UP website in the lead-up to Shadow of the Colossus’ release. The two were discussing the remarkable ad campaign for the game, the one that stuck in the heads of those who were around to witness it over a decade ago. “It's a kind of return to innocence isn't it?” Mielke observed. “You've got all these games out there that are about super-realism, how much ammo you can spend getting through a level, or just really nihilistic stuff. Shadow brings it back to somewhere completely different. To be able to experience something like this is really special.” People keep coming back to Shadow of the Colossus. Year after year, remaster and remake, people can’t get enough of the world Team Ico crafted and the tale they forged. The flexibility of that story, the numerous meanings Shadow of the Colossus takes on, is the secret. It is what allows the film Reign Over Me to use the game as a parallel for a character’s grief and Sony’s marketing department to bill it as one of the greatest romance games of all-time. There aren’t many games that tell explicitly trans stories. The indie scene has seen a rise in them over the last few years with titles like A Normal Lost Phone and We Know the Devil, but outside of that space trans people remain largely absent from mainstream gaming. It’s no surprise, then, that when I transitioned I began looking more closely at games to find something in which I could see a fragment of myself. The mythic nature of Shadow of the Colossus invited a close reading. The story was like the abstract art that fascinated Ueda in his university days. It unfolded itself to accommodate me in a way no other game really could. Its implications of depth and meaning always felt like the massive creatures, the ongoing struggles, and even Mono herself had more to account for than mainstream interpretations provided. Shadow of the Colossus is about the struggle of trans people. For me, this works. If you haven’t yet, we encourage you to sign up to participate in Extra Life this year. If you are looking for a team to join or just want to make a contribution, be sure to check out Team Allison. Allison’s team will be dedicating June 22-23 (HEY THAT'S RIGHT NOW!) to play games and bring in donations from supporters and friends. Maybe even a friend like you?
  5. The crowdfunding for Bloodborne's tabletop board game adaptation is in full swing over on Kickstarter with the total nearing $1.7 million with weeks to go until the campaign wraps up. you might be thinking to yourself, "But wait! Wasn't there already a Bloodborne tabletop game?" And you would be correct! In a way. Eric M. Lang designed the Bloodborne card game that released in 2016 bringing the popular action-RPG of the same name to the table for the first time. Now, Eric M. Lang has returned along with veteran designer Michale Shinall to fully realize the potential of a Bloodborne tabletop experience. Bloodborne is a 2015 action-RPG from Dark Souls developer FromSoftware. It released exclusively for the PlayStation 4 and featured the return of Dark Souls' director Hidetaka Miyazaki. The game follows the adventures of a foreigner who comes to the city of Yharnam in search of the legendary healing offered by the church and its blood. Soon, the player is wrapped up in an eldritch conspiracy constructed by powers and beings far beyond mortal comprehension. On top of the core campaign, players could discover chalices that brought them into a sprawling dungeon beneath the city that goes deep down into the earth, snaking toward an ancient being at the heart of the strange corruption that has seeped into the land. That brings us to the Kickstarter from CMON, a company that has a growing relationship with Sony that allowed them to make the 2016 Bloodborne card game, the Bloodborne board game, and God of War: The Card Game. The latest crowdfunding effort offers an amazing array of miniatures and a beautiful collection of board pieces. As a draw for the game, those who back the Kickstarter get access to a large number of exclusive figures that represent players, items, enemies, and bosses. If you think that Bloodborne: The Board Game is releasing without lore or a story, you would be dead wrong. In fact, it has four different stories that come in the form of campaigns. Each campaign takes place over the course of three chapters that each drastically change the way enemies appear and behave along with new content. Each chapter features a number of decisions players need to make in order to proceed and those choices create a branching narrative with possible consequences farther along in the campaign. Each of these campaigns take place in familiar settings like Yharnam's Cathedral Ward or the Tomb of Oedeon, each created in a way you've never seen before. Instead of relying on the luck of dice, Bloodborne: The Board Game makes use of cards. Players choose from a selection of trick weapons that determine their basic abilities before beginning their adventure. While slaying monsters, players can procure a number of permanent items, upgrade cards, and consumables. How players use those upgrades and items on top of their weapons will determine if they are able to survive the long hunt. Those enemies that stand in the way of survival fill out a roster of over twenty unique enemy types armed with almost thirty AI cards. You can look over the work-in-progress rule book to get a more in-depth idea of what the final game will play like. The Kickstarter campaign initially asked for $200,000 to get the basic version of the game released. However, with over 8x more than their goal raised, the campaign has rolled out a crazy amount of extras. By far the most important unlocked at $230,000: Chalice Dungeon Rules. Players will be able to augment their games with a series of special rules and Chalice Dungeon tiles. Twelve additional tiles and forty-five additional miniatures have been unlocked so far. At the moment, the campaign appears to be on track to hit $1.75 million and unlock another four miniatures. If the project receieves even more backing, which seems incredibly likely, even more will be added to the game package. If you are a fan of multiple backing tiers, you might be disappointed by this campaign. There's only one backing tier left at $100 for the base game and all the Kickstarter exclusive figures. Bloodborne: The Board Game, thankfully, comes with a clear release window. Backers can expect the big box tabletop to release in May of 2020. One thing backers should be aware of, however, is shipping. The backing pledge does not include shipping, so in order to actually receive the board game, backers will need to pay for shipping after the Kickstarter ends. This will all be handled through a service called Pledge Manager launching shortly after the end of the Kickstarter. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  6. The crowdfunding for Bloodborne's tabletop board game adaptation is in full swing over on Kickstarter with the total nearing $1.7 million with weeks to go until the campaign wraps up. you might be thinking to yourself, "But wait! Wasn't there already a Bloodborne tabletop game?" And you would be correct! In a way. Eric M. Lang designed the Bloodborne card game that released in 2016 bringing the popular action-RPG of the same name to the table for the first time. Now, Eric M. Lang has returned along with veteran designer Michale Shinall to fully realize the potential of a Bloodborne tabletop experience. Bloodborne is a 2015 action-RPG from Dark Souls developer FromSoftware. It released exclusively for the PlayStation 4 and featured the return of Dark Souls' director Hidetaka Miyazaki. The game follows the adventures of a foreigner who comes to the city of Yharnam in search of the legendary healing offered by the church and its blood. Soon, the player is wrapped up in an eldritch conspiracy constructed by powers and beings far beyond mortal comprehension. On top of the core campaign, players could discover chalices that brought them into a sprawling dungeon beneath the city that goes deep down into the earth, snaking toward an ancient being at the heart of the strange corruption that has seeped into the land. That brings us to the Kickstarter from CMON, a company that has a growing relationship with Sony that allowed them to make the 2016 Bloodborne card game, the Bloodborne board game, and God of War: The Card Game. The latest crowdfunding effort offers an amazing array of miniatures and a beautiful collection of board pieces. As a draw for the game, those who back the Kickstarter get access to a large number of exclusive figures that represent players, items, enemies, and bosses. If you think that Bloodborne: The Board Game is releasing without lore or a story, you would be dead wrong. In fact, it has four different stories that come in the form of campaigns. Each campaign takes place over the course of three chapters that each drastically change the way enemies appear and behave along with new content. Each chapter features a number of decisions players need to make in order to proceed and those choices create a branching narrative with possible consequences farther along in the campaign. Each of these campaigns take place in familiar settings like Yharnam's Cathedral Ward or the Tomb of Oedeon, each created in a way you've never seen before. Instead of relying on the luck of dice, Bloodborne: The Board Game makes use of cards. Players choose from a selection of trick weapons that determine their basic abilities before beginning their adventure. While slaying monsters, players can procure a number of permanent items, upgrade cards, and consumables. How players use those upgrades and items on top of their weapons will determine if they are able to survive the long hunt. Those enemies that stand in the way of survival fill out a roster of over twenty unique enemy types armed with almost thirty AI cards. You can look over the work-in-progress rule book to get a more in-depth idea of what the final game will play like. The Kickstarter campaign initially asked for $200,000 to get the basic version of the game released. However, with over 8x more than their goal raised, the campaign has rolled out a crazy amount of extras. By far the most important unlocked at $230,000: Chalice Dungeon Rules. Players will be able to augment their games with a series of special rules and Chalice Dungeon tiles. Twelve additional tiles and forty-five additional miniatures have been unlocked so far. At the moment, the campaign appears to be on track to hit $1.75 million and unlock another four miniatures. If the project receieves even more backing, which seems incredibly likely, even more will be added to the game package. If you are a fan of multiple backing tiers, you might be disappointed by this campaign. There's only one backing tier left at $100 for the base game and all the Kickstarter exclusive figures. Bloodborne: The Board Game, thankfully, comes with a clear release window. Backers can expect the big box tabletop to release in May of 2020. One thing backers should be aware of, however, is shipping. The backing pledge does not include shipping, so in order to actually receive the board game, backers will need to pay for shipping after the Kickstarter ends. This will all be handled through a service called Pledge Manager launching shortly after the end of the Kickstarter. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  7. The console that will replace the PlayStation 4 has officially been glimpsed on the horizon. While none of the next-gen consoles have been officially announced, a number of details have come out regarding what they might be capable of achieving and what the gaming landscape will look like in the next few years. Now, tantalizing new information has been revealed about what Sony has been working on courtesy of Mark Cerny, the device's lead systems architect. In an interview with Wired, Cerny revealed a treasure trove of new information and even displayed the capabilities of one of the early development kit units that have been sent out to a number of developers currently working on titles for the next-gen system. Perhaps coming as a surprise to many, the name of the new console was not confirmed to be the PlayStation 5, though perhaps Sony's track record with their console naming convention would make that a safe assumption. The new machine won't be releasing this year and it might even be a 2021 release, but even so, what we know about it so far seems fantastic. Standing in stark contrast to the move away from physical media in Google's Stadia, Apple Arcade, and Microsoft's continuing inclination toward phasing out of discs, PlayStation's next console will play discs. In fact, due to its foundations resting in the design of the PlayStation 4, it will be backwards-compatible with physical PlayStation 4 titles. Also, the next console will support PlayStation's current iteration of PSVR, even if a new version of that hardware releases at a future date. On top of that, the PlayStation 5 will possess the things people most expect from a new console: Improved GPU, an enhanced CPU, more memory, and a greatly increased storage capacity. These improvements will make the device able to support ray tracing, the hot new technique in game development that helps light to reflect more realistically in-game. Cerny expects that ray tracing will have wider applications as more developers make use of it, allowing an increase to audio quality, too. However, the biggest feature the new console will bring to the table is a solid-state hard drive enhanced with proprietary software that makes it perform faster than anything available for PCs. Cerny demonstrated the "low-speed" development kit of the PlayStation 5 for Wired; the dev unit performed 19 times faster than the PS4 Pro. It reduced load times on the same game from 15 seconds to 0.8 and was able to render the same files in a fraction of the time it took the current hardware. That improvement is largely due to the improved ability of the hard drive to pull data efficiently, aided by the specialized software. Though the current unit was connected to a 4K television, it will be able to output up to 8K resolutions. Though no new software or cloud gaming strategies were revealed during the interview, Cerny hinted that Sony has plans to compete with Microsoft and Google on that front. Perhaps PlayStation Now might merely be a test run for what the gaming giant has in store for the next generation of hardware? What features would you like to see included in the PlayStation 5 (or whatever it winds up being called)? Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  8. The console that will replace the PlayStation 4 has officially been glimpsed on the horizon. While none of the next-gen consoles have been officially announced, a number of details have come out regarding what they might be capable of achieving and what the gaming landscape will look like in the next few years. Now, tantalizing new information has been revealed about what Sony has been working on courtesy of Mark Cerny, the device's lead systems architect. In an interview with Wired, Cerny revealed a treasure trove of new information and even displayed the capabilities of one of the early development kit units that have been sent out to a number of developers currently working on titles for the next-gen system. Perhaps coming as a surprise to many, the name of the new console was not confirmed to be the PlayStation 5, though perhaps Sony's track record with their console naming convention would make that a safe assumption. The new machine won't be releasing this year and it might even be a 2021 release, but even so, what we know about it so far seems fantastic. Standing in stark contrast to the move away from physical media in Google's Stadia, Apple Arcade, and Microsoft's continuing inclination toward phasing out of discs, PlayStation's next console will play discs. In fact, due to its foundations resting in the design of the PlayStation 4, it will be backwards-compatible with physical PlayStation 4 titles. Also, the next console will support PlayStation's current iteration of PSVR, even if a new version of that hardware releases at a future date. On top of that, the PlayStation 5 will possess the things people most expect from a new console: Improved GPU, an enhanced CPU, more memory, and a greatly increased storage capacity. These improvements will make the device able to support ray tracing, the hot new technique in game development that helps light to reflect more realistically in-game. Cerny expects that ray tracing will have wider applications as more developers make use of it, allowing an increase to audio quality, too. However, the biggest feature the new console will bring to the table is a solid-state hard drive enhanced with proprietary software that makes it perform faster than anything available for PCs. Cerny demonstrated the "low-speed" development kit of the PlayStation 5 for Wired; the dev unit performed 19 times faster than the PS4 Pro. It reduced load times on the same game from 15 seconds to 0.8 and was able to render the same files in a fraction of the time it took the current hardware. That improvement is largely due to the improved ability of the hard drive to pull data efficiently, aided by the specialized software. Though the current unit was connected to a 4K television, it will be able to output up to 8K resolutions. Though no new software or cloud gaming strategies were revealed during the interview, Cerny hinted that Sony has plans to compete with Microsoft and Google on that front. Perhaps PlayStation Now might merely be a test run for what the gaming giant has in store for the next generation of hardware? What features would you like to see included in the PlayStation 5 (or whatever it winds up being called)? Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  9. Today, Microsoft announced that they would be bringing Xbox Live to Android and iOS devices, officially lending its support to the wider world of mobile game development. This move isn't entirely unprecedented. Xbox Live support has been available on mobile before, however it was only included in apps and games developed by Microsoft itself, like Minecraft. This new move will put Xbox Live within reach of any developer who wants to integrate their app or game into the wider Xbox Live ecosystem. Microsoft initially teased back in February that they might be making an announcement related to mobile soon. The move, revealed today, will allow apps and games across the mobile world to access the suite of services associated with Xbox Live. Developers will be able to use the tools released by Microsoft to connect as many or as few Xbox Life services with their project as needed. Now we know, thanks to The Verge, the full extent of the program and tools. Microsoft's new mobile development kit (SDK) will enable devs to add Gamerscore, open up clubs, friend lists, and include account family settings. On top of that, developers will be able to implement a single sign-in for Xbox Live and grant devs online protection for their apps and games. The new SDK will come together with Microsoft Game Stack, a collection of tool sets designed to get developers up and running with Microsoft's cloud technology, something the tech giant has been pushing across a wide variety of its services outside of gaming. A rumor has been going around the industry that Xbox Live integration will also be coming to the Nintendo Switch, though a rep from Microsoft didn't deny that it's in the works. However, even if Xbox Live comes to Nintendo Switch, it's unlikely to make its way onto Sony's flagship platform, the PlayStation 4. Microsoft, for its part, appears to be very willing to partner with companies many might consider to be rivals, but Sony's reticence makes the possible team up all but impossible. While it might seem like a similar roll out on a rival platform would be impossible, Minecraft on Switch does implement an Xbox Live sign-in. That puts the Switch in a similar position as the mobile market was prior to this announcement. The ability to put Xbox Live on Switch is already out in the wild with Minecraft; all it would take is the okay from Nintendo and some additional fine-tuning of the software for it to work well on Switch. We could very easily see the next battle for gaming supremacy take place not in hardware, but in the realm of software support and service features. If that's the case, Xbox Live just created a huge lead for itself. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  10. Today, Microsoft announced that they would be bringing Xbox Live to Android and iOS devices, officially lending its support to the wider world of mobile game development. This move isn't entirely unprecedented. Xbox Live support has been available on mobile before, however it was only included in apps and games developed by Microsoft itself, like Minecraft. This new move will put Xbox Live within reach of any developer who wants to integrate their app or game into the wider Xbox Live ecosystem. Microsoft initially teased back in February that they might be making an announcement related to mobile soon. The move, revealed today, will allow apps and games across the mobile world to access the suite of services associated with Xbox Live. Developers will be able to use the tools released by Microsoft to connect as many or as few Xbox Life services with their project as needed. Now we know, thanks to The Verge, the full extent of the program and tools. Microsoft's new mobile development kit (SDK) will enable devs to add Gamerscore, open up clubs, friend lists, and include account family settings. On top of that, developers will be able to implement a single sign-in for Xbox Live and grant devs online protection for their apps and games. The new SDK will come together with Microsoft Game Stack, a collection of tool sets designed to get developers up and running with Microsoft's cloud technology, something the tech giant has been pushing across a wide variety of its services outside of gaming. A rumor has been going around the industry that Xbox Live integration will also be coming to the Nintendo Switch, though a rep from Microsoft didn't deny that it's in the works. However, even if Xbox Live comes to Nintendo Switch, it's unlikely to make its way onto Sony's flagship platform, the PlayStation 4. Microsoft, for its part, appears to be very willing to partner with companies many might consider to be rivals, but Sony's reticence makes the possible team up all but impossible. While it might seem like a similar roll out on a rival platform would be impossible, Minecraft on Switch does implement an Xbox Live sign-in. That puts the Switch in a similar position as the mobile market was prior to this announcement. The ability to put Xbox Live on Switch is already out in the wild with Minecraft; all it would take is the okay from Nintendo and some additional fine-tuning of the software for it to work well on Switch. We could very easily see the next battle for gaming supremacy take place not in hardware, but in the realm of software support and service features. If that's the case, Xbox Live just created a huge lead for itself. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  11. Members of PlayStation Plus will be receiving a treasure trove of great games this month. Each of the currently active consoles connected with the service will be receiving two games each, and they're all incredibly solid and fun ones. The headliners for the month are definitely the PlayStation 4 titles. users will have the chance to snag the existential horror game SOMA as well as team racing title Onrush. SOMA comes courtesy of Frictional Games, the studio behind Penumbra and Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It weaves a strange and unique tale about sentience, robotics, and the nature of being, forcing players to grapple with questions that might threaten to keep them up all night. It's a horror game, certainly, but the horror largely eschews jump scares and instead builds its dread slowly, in a way that sticks with you long after the credits roll. Oh, and it is all at the bottom of the ocean, just in case you were looking for more water in your games. Meanwhile, Onrush stands as a unique racing game that doesn't determine winners by who comes in first place. Instead, racers are divided into teams and win the various modes by performing enough stunts (Overdrive), passing enough checkpoints (Countdown), staying within a certain area on the race track (Lockdown), or a battle mode where each player has three lives (Switch). Onrush was developed by members of the same team that worked on the Motorstorm series. PlayStation 3 players will gain access to Steredenn: Classic, a sidescrolling roguelike and Steins;Gate, an adventure game/visual novel involving time travel that has spawned manga and anime adaptations in the years since it released. Steredenn: Classic, if you've never heard of it, is similar to games like classic spaceship shooters like R-Type, but with a more modern style and roguelike elements that make each playthrough unique. Without spoiling anything about Steins;Gate... it's good, definitely check it out for some compelling drama and branching storylines. Finally, the PlayStation Vita is getting some love! This month, PlayStation Plus members can download Iconoclasts, a sidescrolling metroidvania released this year (crazy, a game released on Vita in 2018!). Users can also grab Papers, Please, the highly acclaimed indie game from Lucas Pope, the developer who recently released Return of the Obra Dinn. Both games are truly quality indie games and it warms the cockles of my cold heart to see them available to a lot of people on the Vita. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  12. Members of PlayStation Plus will be receiving a treasure trove of great games this month. Each of the currently active consoles connected with the service will be receiving two games each, and they're all incredibly solid and fun ones. The headliners for the month are definitely the PlayStation 4 titles. users will have the chance to snag the existential horror game SOMA as well as team racing title Onrush. SOMA comes courtesy of Frictional Games, the studio behind Penumbra and Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It weaves a strange and unique tale about sentience, robotics, and the nature of being, forcing players to grapple with questions that might threaten to keep them up all night. It's a horror game, certainly, but the horror largely eschews jump scares and instead builds its dread slowly, in a way that sticks with you long after the credits roll. Oh, and it is all at the bottom of the ocean, just in case you were looking for more water in your games. Meanwhile, Onrush stands as a unique racing game that doesn't determine winners by who comes in first place. Instead, racers are divided into teams and win the various modes by performing enough stunts (Overdrive), passing enough checkpoints (Countdown), staying within a certain area on the race track (Lockdown), or a battle mode where each player has three lives (Switch). Onrush was developed by members of the same team that worked on the Motorstorm series. PlayStation 3 players will gain access to Steredenn: Classic, a sidescrolling roguelike and Steins;Gate, an adventure game/visual novel involving time travel that has spawned manga and anime adaptations in the years since it released. Steredenn: Classic, if you've never heard of it, is similar to games like classic spaceship shooters like R-Type, but with a more modern style and roguelike elements that make each playthrough unique. Without spoiling anything about Steins;Gate... it's good, definitely check it out for some compelling drama and branching storylines. Finally, the PlayStation Vita is getting some love! This month, PlayStation Plus members can download Iconoclasts, a sidescrolling metroidvania released this year (crazy, a game released on Vita in 2018!). Users can also grab Papers, Please, the highly acclaimed indie game from Lucas Pope, the developer who recently released Return of the Obra Dinn. Both games are truly quality indie games and it warms the cockles of my cold heart to see them available to a lot of people on the Vita. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  13. We haven't heard much about the remaster of the PlayStation 1 since its announcement at PSX late last year. The title is expected to be a full, top-to-bottom revamp along the same lines as the Crash Bandicoots and Spyros that are all the rage these days, complete with new assets and up to 4K resolution support. In a recent appearance on PlayStation Blogcast, Sid Shuman, Sony's social media director, revealed that the company expects the MediEvil remake to release "in the next week or so." This likely puts the game on track for release near Halloween, if not the day of everyone's favorite spooky holiday. Shuman also said that the head of worldwide studios at Sony, Shawn Layden, would be making an announcement soon on the podcast, so we will likely be hearing more concrete details in the days to come. RIP easily, friends, it appears Sir Dan will be returning from the grave quite soon. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  14. We haven't heard much about the remaster of the PlayStation 1 since its announcement at PSX late last year. The title is expected to be a full, top-to-bottom revamp along the same lines as the Crash Bandicoots and Spyros that are all the rage these days, complete with new assets and up to 4K resolution support. In a recent appearance on PlayStation Blogcast, Sid Shuman, Sony's social media director, revealed that the company expects the MediEvil remake to release "in the next week or so." This likely puts the game on track for release near Halloween, if not the day of everyone's favorite spooky holiday. Shuman also said that the head of worldwide studios at Sony, Shawn Layden, would be making an announcement soon on the podcast, so we will likely be hearing more concrete details in the days to come. RIP easily, friends, it appears Sir Dan will be returning from the grave quite soon. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  15. How does one make something new while retaining the weight of lore and history that comes with a premise that has been reborn again and again countless times in fiction? Marvel has certainly struggled with this question in their cinematic universe and various game developers have their own takes on classic superheroes. Often each iteration retells the heroic beginnings of the headlining hero or makes some connection with a popular continuity of said character. Insomniac Games seems to have been answered the question by skipping the iconic moments of the wall-crawler's origin story altogether in order to tackle the sophomore issues of being a hero. "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" - Everyone even remotely familiar with Spider-Man knows the final commandment of Uncle Ben, Peter Parker's father figure who dies early on in his origin story. Usually, when a piece of media starts off with this, we see Parker struggle with figuring out exactly how much responsibility he has to be using his power to help others. Given that Marvel's Spider-Man takes place roughly eight years after the events that made Peter Parker into a superpowered webslinger, it needs to address a different idea. There aren't any quotes delivered on the dying breath of a beloved old man, but the game tackles the issue of what happens to people who have accepted that responsibility but find forces beyond their control pushing them, perverting that sense of duty. How does someone good go on to commit brutal and evil acts despite the goodness they displayed and what does it take to stop them? When Marvel's Spider-Man roars to life with all cylinders blazing, it captures how much larger-than-life everyday struggles can feel sometimes. Clashing with the colossal force of Rhino or dodging the blasts of a villain whose on-the-nose name is "Mr. Negative" can be seen as a fight against the worst parts inside all of us. And part of what makes that resonate so much is that Peter Parker doesn't walk away unscathed. Over the course of the game, these fights take their toll. He is slashed, burned, stabbed, blasted, and crushed. At one point he has so many broken ribs that his allies tell him he shouldn't be standing. Peter, despite all the impediments thrown into his way, continues to do his best to stand by that responsibility, sacrificing himself at every turn. All of this he does while having ample opportunities to walk away and spare himself. In many ways, the way Peter fights as Spider-Man fits into the classic mold of a hero who does what is right no matter the cost to himself. If that's all one is looking for in a game about superheroes, then Marvel's Spider-Man will fulfill that desire. If, however, you're looking for a game that has things to say about the myriad of issues that those acts of heroism touch upon, Marvel's Spider-Man might fall a bit flat. For a super genius with a heart for justice, Peter Parker seems surprisingly unwoke about the systemic issues around him, focusing on the symptoms of various problems instead of the root causes themselves. All of this would be fine if this was a story about a Spider-Man just getting the hang of the hero business, but the game makes a point to show Peter has been at this for a long while now. Of course, one could argue that this version of New York is one without any systemic issues, but the text of the game indicates that's not true. The opening scene has corrupt cops attempting to murder Spider-Man (something that isn't really seen as abnormal by anyone involved); Oscorp routinely poisons the air and water in the name of profits (which Spider-Man fixes, but also doesn't report, effectively letting the billion dollar company off the hook); and both Peter and Aunt May work at a local homeless shelter. However, during all of Spider-Man's running monologues as he traverses the city, he never talks about the systemic issues that lead to those things being problems. Where are his comments about trying to reform the police in some way so as to discourage cops taking bribes? Why doesn't Spider-Man hold the billion dollar corporation responsible for being so focused on profiting that it is willing to allow people to be poisoned? How does Peter Parker not even consider the reality of income inequality staring him in the face when he moves between the world of Norman Osborne and that of FEAST, the homeless shelter at which he volunteers? The omission of any opining comments from Peter on these topics and issues certainly stems from the desire to keep Marvel's Spider-Man as uncontroversial as possible. Clearly, Peter as a character would care about all of those issues, but the game goes out of its way to avoid topics that might be touchy in the current context. Though the in-game world is presented to us as a version of New York City, you won't see Spider-Man or Peter Parker attending a rally against police corruption or breaking up a gathering of Neo-Nazis. There won't be talk about the forces that evict people out onto the street, though the game implies that rent prices are out of control and the care provided for mental health issues is inadequate. Ultimately, its desire to avoid saying anything that might be even slightly seen as controversial leaves Marvel's Spider-Man feeling a bit hollow once the dazzling feeling of swinging between skyscrappers wears off. To clarify, since this topic has become something of a sticking point for the game since its release: The decision to tiptoe around most of its relevant social issues doesn't make Marvel's Spider-Man bad. It's simply a noticeable narrative decision that might lead to its story being forgettable over time. To Insomniac's credit, that shine doesn't wear off quickly. Easily the best parts of Spider-Man are when the game leaves the player to traverse the city and do street-level hero things. Stopping a burglary in progress, disarming a bomb threat, or saving people from the wreckage of a car accident are all thrilling in their own way, but getting to the scene stands as the best part of any of these encounters. Swinging through the city, right from the beginning, feels amazing. The game knows this and has players shooting webs onto buildings within five minutes of booting up the game. As players progress along the three skill trees, new traversal abilities will unlock, making Spider-Man faster, giving him new abilities to keep up momentum, and it results in this gentle learning curve that keeps things fresh from the beginning of the game until the credits roll. However, once I hit the credits scene, complete with clips teasing what future games in this series will be about, I felt fully and totally done. The side content, while enjoyable based on the traversal mechanics alone, isn't terribly interesting. It serves as a decent distraction while going through the main game, avoiding the charge of being bloated fluff by virtue of the overall solid gameplay mechanics and the various tokens you get from doing them that can be used to upgrade gear or unlock new spider suits. However, the stories relegated to the side missions just aren't that interesting even when drawing on fun bits of lore. (Also, Insomniac, make Mysterio a proper villain, you cowards) It's a bit of a missed opportunity because one of the most intriguing decisions Insomniac made with regards to their Spider-Man game is that there are a number of missions where you take on the role of Mary Jane and Miles Morales and need to use stealth and trickery to sneak through different areas. These segments actually had a lot of potential for expansion into interesting side missions, but are only used in the main story under tightly controlled circumstances. Early on, there is a great section where Mary Jane sneaks into a facility owned by Wilson Fisk to collect some evidence and must do some sneaking and puzzle solving. It's fun and a breath of fresh air; seeing more iteration on that idea would have been really neat, maybe adding a social element to it and some more fleshed out stealth options. Miles is given some extreme hacking abilities that would make for awesome stealth gameplay, too, but that never fully pays off in any satisfying way. The little touches around the edges of Marvel's Spider-Man really give it a lot of character. Subtle musical call backs to The Avengers thrum through the most climactic moments. Gaining momentum while flipping through New York City results in a flurry of stringed instruments adding to the sense of speed and wonder. Different camera options in the obligatory photo mode (something no modern game should be without at this point) give players a lot of different options with which to play and get those perfect shots. The diverse array of suits are also really nice, and it was a great idea to tie them to specific powers that are then unlocked on every other suit. Heck, the game even has a Stan Lee guest appearance which was absolutely lovely. Conclusion: Marvel's Spider-Man might just be the best Spider-Man game ever made. It's gorgeously realized, cinematic as heck, for better and worse, and delivers a powerhouse of a final act. It also isn't perfect. Its side missions are dull, saved from mundane boredom by some rock solid traversal mechanics and adequate combat. Seriously, swinging through a city has never been as fun as it is in this particular Spider-Man game. All of that is built on a story about heroism; what it truly means to not just become a hero, but to live like one, too. While it misses the opportunity to be about a much more encompassing and larger idea of what heroes should be outside of the individual, punching-bad-guys level, that core conceit should be enough for just about anyone to enjoy Marvel's Spider-Man. Here's hoping that the sequel builds off of this simple foundation for a significantly bolder narrative that tackles some of the more grounded problems of our current times. Marvel's Spider-Man is now available on PlayStation 4. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  16. How does one make something new while retaining the weight of lore and history that comes with a premise that has been reborn again and again countless times in fiction? Marvel has certainly struggled with this question in their cinematic universe and various game developers have their own takes on classic superheroes. Often each iteration retells the heroic beginnings of the headlining hero or makes some connection with a popular continuity of said character. Insomniac Games seems to have been answered the question by skipping the iconic moments of the wall-crawler's origin story altogether in order to tackle the sophomore issues of being a hero. "With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility" - Everyone even remotely familiar with Spider-Man knows the final commandment of Uncle Ben, Peter Parker's father figure who dies early on in his origin story. Usually, when a piece of media starts off with this, we see Parker struggle with figuring out exactly how much responsibility he has to be using his power to help others. Given that Marvel's Spider-Man takes place roughly eight years after the events that made Peter Parker into a superpowered webslinger, it needs to address a different idea. There aren't any quotes delivered on the dying breath of a beloved old man, but the game tackles the issue of what happens to people who have accepted that responsibility but find forces beyond their control pushing them, perverting that sense of duty. How does someone good go on to commit brutal and evil acts despite the goodness they displayed and what does it take to stop them? When Marvel's Spider-Man roars to life with all cylinders blazing, it captures how much larger-than-life everyday struggles can feel sometimes. Clashing with the colossal force of Rhino or dodging the blasts of a villain whose on-the-nose name is "Mr. Negative" can be seen as a fight against the worst parts inside all of us. And part of what makes that resonate so much is that Peter Parker doesn't walk away unscathed. Over the course of the game, these fights take their toll. He is slashed, burned, stabbed, blasted, and crushed. At one point he has so many broken ribs that his allies tell him he shouldn't be standing. Peter, despite all the impediments thrown into his way, continues to do his best to stand by that responsibility, sacrificing himself at every turn. All of this he does while having ample opportunities to walk away and spare himself. In many ways, the way Peter fights as Spider-Man fits into the classic mold of a hero who does what is right no matter the cost to himself. If that's all one is looking for in a game about superheroes, then Marvel's Spider-Man will fulfill that desire. If, however, you're looking for a game that has things to say about the myriad of issues that those acts of heroism touch upon, Marvel's Spider-Man might fall a bit flat. For a super genius with a heart for justice, Peter Parker seems surprisingly unwoke about the systemic issues around him, focusing on the symptoms of various problems instead of the root causes themselves. All of this would be fine if this was a story about a Spider-Man just getting the hang of the hero business, but the game makes a point to show Peter has been at this for a long while now. Of course, one could argue that this version of New York is one without any systemic issues, but the text of the game indicates that's not true. The opening scene has corrupt cops attempting to murder Spider-Man (something that isn't really seen as abnormal by anyone involved); Oscorp routinely poisons the air and water in the name of profits (which Spider-Man fixes, but also doesn't report, effectively letting the billion dollar company off the hook); and both Peter and Aunt May work at a local homeless shelter. However, during all of Spider-Man's running monologues as he traverses the city, he never talks about the systemic issues that lead to those things being problems. Where are his comments about trying to reform the police in some way so as to discourage cops taking bribes? Why doesn't Spider-Man hold the billion dollar corporation responsible for being so focused on profiting that it is willing to allow people to be poisoned? How does Peter Parker not even consider the reality of income inequality staring him in the face when he moves between the world of Norman Osborne and that of FEAST, the homeless shelter at which he volunteers? The omission of any opining comments from Peter on these topics and issues certainly stems from the desire to keep Marvel's Spider-Man as uncontroversial as possible. Clearly, Peter as a character would care about all of those issues, but the game goes out of its way to avoid topics that might be touchy in the current context. Though the in-game world is presented to us as a version of New York City, you won't see Spider-Man or Peter Parker attending a rally against police corruption or breaking up a gathering of Neo-Nazis. There won't be talk about the forces that evict people out onto the street, though the game implies that rent prices are out of control and the care provided for mental health issues is inadequate. Ultimately, its desire to avoid saying anything that might be even slightly seen as controversial leaves Marvel's Spider-Man feeling a bit hollow once the dazzling feeling of swinging between skyscrappers wears off. To clarify, since this topic has become something of a sticking point for the game since its release: The decision to tiptoe around most of its relevant social issues doesn't make Marvel's Spider-Man bad. It's simply a noticeable narrative decision that might lead to its story being forgettable over time. To Insomniac's credit, that shine doesn't wear off quickly. Easily the best parts of Spider-Man are when the game leaves the player to traverse the city and do street-level hero things. Stopping a burglary in progress, disarming a bomb threat, or saving people from the wreckage of a car accident are all thrilling in their own way, but getting to the scene stands as the best part of any of these encounters. Swinging through the city, right from the beginning, feels amazing. The game knows this and has players shooting webs onto buildings within five minutes of booting up the game. As players progress along the three skill trees, new traversal abilities will unlock, making Spider-Man faster, giving him new abilities to keep up momentum, and it results in this gentle learning curve that keeps things fresh from the beginning of the game until the credits roll. However, once I hit the credits scene, complete with clips teasing what future games in this series will be about, I felt fully and totally done. The side content, while enjoyable based on the traversal mechanics alone, isn't terribly interesting. It serves as a decent distraction while going through the main game, avoiding the charge of being bloated fluff by virtue of the overall solid gameplay mechanics and the various tokens you get from doing them that can be used to upgrade gear or unlock new spider suits. However, the stories relegated to the side missions just aren't that interesting even when drawing on fun bits of lore. (Also, Insomniac, make Mysterio a proper villain, you cowards) It's a bit of a missed opportunity because one of the most intriguing decisions Insomniac made with regards to their Spider-Man game is that there are a number of missions where you take on the role of Mary Jane and Miles Morales and need to use stealth and trickery to sneak through different areas. These segments actually had a lot of potential for expansion into interesting side missions, but are only used in the main story under tightly controlled circumstances. Early on, there is a great section where Mary Jane sneaks into a facility owned by Wilson Fisk to collect some evidence and must do some sneaking and puzzle solving. It's fun and a breath of fresh air; seeing more iteration on that idea would have been really neat, maybe adding a social element to it and some more fleshed out stealth options. Miles is given some extreme hacking abilities that would make for awesome stealth gameplay, too, but that never fully pays off in any satisfying way. The little touches around the edges of Marvel's Spider-Man really give it a lot of character. Subtle musical call backs to The Avengers thrum through the most climactic moments. Gaining momentum while flipping through New York City results in a flurry of stringed instruments adding to the sense of speed and wonder. Different camera options in the obligatory photo mode (something no modern game should be without at this point) give players a lot of different options with which to play and get those perfect shots. The diverse array of suits are also really nice, and it was a great idea to tie them to specific powers that are then unlocked on every other suit. Heck, the game even has a Stan Lee guest appearance which was absolutely lovely. Conclusion: Marvel's Spider-Man might just be the best Spider-Man game ever made. It's gorgeously realized, cinematic as heck, for better and worse, and delivers a powerhouse of a final act. It also isn't perfect. Its side missions are dull, saved from mundane boredom by some rock solid traversal mechanics and adequate combat. Seriously, swinging through a city has never been as fun as it is in this particular Spider-Man game. All of that is built on a story about heroism; what it truly means to not just become a hero, but to live like one, too. While it misses the opportunity to be about a much more encompassing and larger idea of what heroes should be outside of the individual, punching-bad-guys level, that core conceit should be enough for just about anyone to enjoy Marvel's Spider-Man. Here's hoping that the sequel builds off of this simple foundation for a significantly bolder narrative that tackles some of the more grounded problems of our current times. Marvel's Spider-Man is now available on PlayStation 4. Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  17. The PlayStation 2 title that blended the magics of Disney and Final Fantasy into one crazy package, Kingdom Hearts captured the imaginations of a generation of gamers with a smorgasbord of previously unthinkable crossovers the likes of which had never been seen in video games before. The action-RPG, though regarded by many as a classic now, was conceived of as a big gamble that Disney and Square were only willing to take because of the ailing finances of their respective companies. Now, more years than many would care to admit later, the third official installment of the series seems to be on the brink of release. So we have to ask.... Does the original Kingdom Hearts hold up as one of the best games of all-time? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Kingdom Hearts 'Protect Your Kingdom' by Smooth4Lyfe (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03532) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games! View full article
  18. The PlayStation 2 title that blended the magics of Disney and Final Fantasy into one crazy package, Kingdom Hearts captured the imaginations of a generation of gamers with a smorgasbord of previously unthinkable crossovers the likes of which had never been seen in video games before. The action-RPG, though regarded by many as a classic now, was conceived of as a big gamble that Disney and Square were only willing to take because of the ailing finances of their respective companies. Now, more years than many would care to admit later, the third official installment of the series seems to be on the brink of release. So we have to ask.... Does the original Kingdom Hearts hold up as one of the best games of all-time? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Kingdom Hearts 'Protect Your Kingdom' by Smooth4Lyfe (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03532) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday Don't forget to sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals around the US and Canada by playing games!
  19. For the past... wow, 11 years, people have been putting forward the name of wisecracking actor Nathan Fillion to be the motion picture face of the Uncharted series. Fillion, known for his roles as a freewheelin' space captain in Firefly and wealthy book author/crime solver in the long-running Castle series, frequently talked about wanting to take on the role, but did not land the part for the official film. Tom Holland is currently slated to play the role of Nathan Drake in the official upcoming film, which will serve as a prequel to the events of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. However, that doesn't mean that Fillion has completely given up hope of staring as Drake. Earlier this week, a 15-minute fan film appeared on YouTube. Directed by Alan Ungar, the short stars Nathan Fillion as Nathan Drake and Stephen Lang as Drake's long-time friend Sully. Drake, suspected of stealing an artifact from a mysterious, wealthy businessman quips his way through an interrogation scene - something that's all part of the plan to recover a clue to something bigger than he or Sully could have ever imagined. The short definitely feels like only part of a larger project, though it's probably too much to hope that we'll ever see a feature-length film that elaborates on this particular plot. If anything, this feels like a proof of concept for Fillion as a potential action star. Take a look below: Look, all I can say is #MakeFillionNathan. View full article
  20. For the past... wow, 11 years, people have been putting forward the name of wisecracking actor Nathan Fillion to be the motion picture face of the Uncharted series. Fillion, known for his roles as a freewheelin' space captain in Firefly and wealthy book author/crime solver in the long-running Castle series, frequently talked about wanting to take on the role, but did not land the part for the official film. Tom Holland is currently slated to play the role of Nathan Drake in the official upcoming film, which will serve as a prequel to the events of Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. However, that doesn't mean that Fillion has completely given up hope of staring as Drake. Earlier this week, a 15-minute fan film appeared on YouTube. Directed by Alan Ungar, the short stars Nathan Fillion as Nathan Drake and Stephen Lang as Drake's long-time friend Sully. Drake, suspected of stealing an artifact from a mysterious, wealthy businessman quips his way through an interrogation scene - something that's all part of the plan to recover a clue to something bigger than he or Sully could have ever imagined. The short definitely feels like only part of a larger project, though it's probably too much to hope that we'll ever see a feature-length film that elaborates on this particular plot. If anything, this feels like a proof of concept for Fillion as a potential action star. Take a look below: Look, all I can say is #MakeFillionNathan.
  21. Every year since 2011, Sega-Addicts.com has done a Dreamcast Dreamless 24-Hour Marathon. From 2015 forward I have taken the reigns and hosted it from my home with staff members and friends joining. Most recently we learned about Extra Life and thought the Marathon was a great chance to raise some money! Collectively over the last two years we have raised over $1,500 for a local children's hospital! And now we are inviting all of you to join us on the internet to raise money for kids while enjoying Sega's last great console on 09/01/2018. This year, we are hosting from the Mega Visions Magazine Twitch page and more ready than ever to tackle some Dreamcast insanity to help the kids! You can check out last year's marathon on YouTube here. Stay tuned for the final schedule in the coming months! We also have a Reddit topic for game recommendations here! Now the die-hard Dreamcast fans will immediately notice we are not celebrating on the actual anniversary (09/09/99) of the console. We are celebrating on Labor Day weekend to allow easier travel for the out-of-towners. We hope you understand and decided to join the insanity on Twitch! Thanks for taking a look, folks. If you feel like helping out, you can print the flyer from the group page and share to all!
  22. In 2010, renowned RPG developer Level-5 released Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn for the Nintendo DS in Japan. The game received a huge wave of attention due to the unique collaboration between Level-5 and the famed film animation studio Ghibli. The game saw a worldwide release a year later for the PlayStation 3 under the title Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Though the two games had much in common, including storylines and cutscenes, the games were developed by different internal teams within Level-5 and played very differently. With the extra year of polish and additional content, the PS3 version wowed critics and audiences alike with smooth visuals, a fully orchestrated soundtrack, and an awful lot of heart. Is Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Super Mario Land 'Welcome Goombo Probably' by Suzumebachi (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03708) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday View full article
  23. In 2010, renowned RPG developer Level-5 released Ni no Kuni: Dominion of the Dark Djinn for the Nintendo DS in Japan. The game received a huge wave of attention due to the unique collaboration between Level-5 and the famed film animation studio Ghibli. The game saw a worldwide release a year later for the PlayStation 3 under the title Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. Though the two games had much in common, including storylines and cutscenes, the games were developed by different internal teams within Level-5 and played very differently. With the extra year of polish and additional content, the PS3 version wowed critics and audiences alike with smooth visuals, a fully orchestrated soundtrack, and an awful lot of heart. Is Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch one of the best games period? Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative. Outro music: Super Mario Land 'Welcome Goombo Probably' by Suzumebachi (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR03708) You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday
  24. Free games are going way for PlayStation 3 and Vita owners. Games for both systems will appear on a monthly basis as part of PlayStation Plus until March 8, 2019. After that time, the games already gained through PS+ will continue to be available so long as the user subscribes to PlayStation's online service, bot no new games will appear each month. After the cut off date, all PS+ titles will consist of PlayStation 4 games. No other aspects of the service are slated for obsolescence. The free games available for March include the following: PS4 Bloodborne Ratchet & Clank PS3 Legend of Kay Mighty No. 9 Vita Claire: Extended Cut Bombing Busters It will be interesting to see if PlayStation will up the number of PS+ titles offered for PlayStation 4 owners to compensate for the drastic reduction in monthly games for their subscribers.
  25. Free games are going way for PlayStation 3 and Vita owners. Games for both systems will appear on a monthly basis as part of PlayStation Plus until March 8, 2019. After that time, the games already gained through PS+ will continue to be available so long as the user subscribes to PlayStation's online service, bot no new games will appear each month. After the cut off date, all PS+ titles will consist of PlayStation 4 games. No other aspects of the service are slated for obsolescence. The free games available for March include the following: PS4 Bloodborne Ratchet & Clank PS3 Legend of Kay Mighty No. 9 Vita Claire: Extended Cut Bombing Busters It will be interesting to see if PlayStation will up the number of PS+ titles offered for PlayStation 4 owners to compensate for the drastic reduction in monthly games for their subscribers. View full article
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