We’ve all seen them. Indie games that seem to pop out of the ether, but every Youtuber seems to have a 'Let's Play' of it. Sure, the content made with the game is entertaining, but it’s usually by virtue of the game being terrible. Games like Five Nights at Freddie’s, Amazing Frog, Trick or Treat, Bear Simulator, and scads of others. They lurk in the dank recesses of Steam’s early access service, and the virtually un-curated underbelly of the Xbox Live Arcade. Sure, it’s a trend that started innocently enough, but it’s getting worse as time goes on.
The moment I saw the dead baby was the moment I knew Max Payne was one of the great stories of modern day Americana. It was probably one of the first games that I illegally downloaded during the period of my life that I was digital pirate. Before you start to harshly (and unjustly) judge me, just know that I needed to pirate Max Payne. My parents had saved up money to buy us a Compaq PC; asking for a 50lb Xbox was absolutely not an option. Yes, I know that Max Payne was initially released on PC, but so what? I, purposely, tended to be the person who was drawn to the things that weren’t as popular, hence I decided to play Max Payne instead of GTA III. It was basically a life decision. Nobody was talking about the genesis of the Max Payne story. GTA III was the greatest thing that Rockstar Games created -- at least that’s what everyone thought.
When I glance at my profile in Overwatch something becomes abundantly clear to me; I’ve become a support player. I’m usually not too big on support classes in shooters because, if we are real here, they usually aren’t that useful. Sure, tossing down med packs at choke points in Battlefield is fun because you are gonna get a ton of points, the same with reviving a fallen friend in a place where you know he’s just going to get torn to shreds as soon as he’s up again. It’s not about them, it’s about you. That’s why Overwatch is so different.
I’ve been consistently pondering the way of life people lead. I wonder if anything really matters. We could choose to see ourselves as a bacteria that needs to constantly growing, hence, the things that we do. People found out about medicines with the intent to save more lives so that our population could grow. As diseases and infections start to bury us by the thousands, we find an antibiotic to stop that bacteria from killing us. After that, a new bacteria forms and new medicines are created. We live longer and the population grows. Technology grows with us and it's to the point that it has grown beyond us. Once technology eliminates humans, it could, itself, spawn another lifeform. I get so deep into thoughts that in the end it might not even matter. All this could be nothing. Or it could be something. I don’t know but I’ve decided to remain out of the know.
I have a soft spot in my heart for the classic arena shooters. They got me through my middle and high school computer technology classes. I would bring a case of bootleg CDs (and later USB flash drives) with Quake 3, Unreal 2004, and as many mods as I could find for them for test days and substitute teachers. Broadband wasn’t yet the norm, and many of my friends and classmates only experience with competitive online PC gaming came from these sessions. It got to the point where I and five or six others would work ahead in the curriculum so we could perform this ritual regularly. While I have a measure of respect for DOOM, and the reboot has the best story in an FPS I’ve seen in nearly a decade, I was expecting more from the multiplayer.
FIFA has been corrupt throughout my whole life. It was probably one of the first facts that I learned about this planet, followed by the realizations that breast milk is great and breasts are greater. Later in my life I learned that FIFA was a non-profit organization and my young 13-year-old mind was permanently blown. The idea of FIFA was to have an organization that would facilitate the play and popularity of football throughout the world. It was not meant to go into countries and facilitate the building of stadiums through slave work and death. There are stadiums in Brazil that are abandoned now because they were built without thinking about usage after World Cup.
The Stoned Gamer Tournament, floating around the state of California like a cloud of indica smoke, slowly escaping from the chamber of your favorite bong. We should make that our official slogan, but then again it's entirely too long to fit on a shirt. Or a dab rig. Basically anything that is significant to a stoned gamer, that slogan won't fit on. Unless you're Donatello from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I'm quite certain that slogan could completely fit on his bo staff. Now, the search for Donatello begins.
Narrative is important for games, even online, multiplayer shooters. While that might seem counterintuitive, a game like Overwatch has shown just how important storytelling can be in a game that has no single player mode and no story mode in the game at all. Instead, Overwatch is straightforward, boot-up-and-play, featuring a cast of colorful characters. So while it might seem like there isn’t any room to tell a story, Blizzard still did exactly that.
The part of me that excitedly bought my way into the Star Citizen universe is still there, but after what feels like years of nothing, I fear that the love affair has turned ugly. There have been public releases for Star Citizen and the promise of what the game could and should be is still there, but the reality of what is currently available is rather grim. Right now the game is distributed via it’s own launcher, which is fine in theory, but it’s also a mess.
It may have been called Local Sesh, but driving to San Diego all the way from Los Angeles on a Sunday Morning for our Fifth Qualifying Tournament of the 2016 Stoned Gamer Season was far from local. More like Far Away Sesh, but it didn't matter because the venue the event was held at was incredibly stunning.
OPUS: The Day We Found Earth is Sour Diesel in my system. Sour Diesel in my system is just like playing OPUS. It was destiny that I ran into OPUS the morning after I drove through the streets of San Antonio completely consumed by Sour Diesel. I didn’t even know I was smoking Sour Diesel until it was absolutely too late. I was gone but I knew that I still had to drive through the hideous San Antonio highways; I knew I was screwed. Yes, I was a nervous sack of nerves while I drove, still, the Texas roads looked beautiful as I drove through them at 50 MPH in a 65 zone -- Siri guided me home. The complexities of the highway system became man-made concrete constellations and I was their spectator.
When we have excellent games like Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen at our disposal, and No Man’s Sky on the horizon, it’s easy to let less ambitious space combat and exploration titles fall by the wayside as we strap on our VR goggles and fire up the HOTAS. It’s a shame, really, because there’s something satisfying about the tight controls and simplicity of the classic twin sticks and shmups that you just don’t get with the newer, more simulationist games that carry on their legacy. While I still regularly fire up titles like Luftrausers, Jamestown, and Geometry Wars to get my fix, it saddens me to see the gulf widening between the space games of old and the newer, bigger, and often slower-paced titles of the modern age. I have an appreciation for both styles of gameplay, and that’s prompted me to search for something that bridges the gap. Something with satisfying twin-stick bullet hell gameplay and the depth of resource management, ship customization and macro-level mechanics that I crave in one package. Up until recently, the titles I’ve explored have come short of the mark. Plenty are fun in their own way, but just don’t scratch all of the itches I have when it comes to sci-fi ship-to- ship combat. That is, until I found Reassembly.
This game holds the distinction of being the first independently developed game to be Sony’s centrepiece reveal at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. Back in 2014, the announcement of this game slipped my attention. However, the first time I heard about this game, I was instantly hooked. Can No Man’s Sky really get past the glaringly obvious finite-ness of every game I’ve ever played? Infinity is a finicky thing, as anyone that has studied mathematics can tell you. The average person’s understanding of infinity (as well as concepts such as randomness) is also usually flawed. Like many of us, if something is beyond the capacity of my own human experience, I consider it infinite. Infinity, for most humans, is defined as such. Somewhere above a few billion, beyond where we can conceivably count.
The internet based tech media has been abuzz with news from nVidia’s Pascal launch event. Youtube “influencers” and other elements in entertainment media were invited to a ranch in Texas, where they were given early access to the GTX 1080 and review samples. They were also given NDAs to sign to stop early real world benchmarks from getting out. Notably absent from the launch event: hard, broad spectrum benchmark data, and representatives from more objective and journalistic media outlets. Masterful marketing on nVidia’s part, sure, but we should all take the rumours about the launch card’s performance with a grain of salt. There are good reasons youtube personalities are called influencers and not reporters. This turn of events has generated a hurricane of forum posts and social media comments making assumptions based on misinformation, and I’m starting to get sick of it.
As a man of distinguished tastes (read: too old for twitchy games) I find myself enjoying strategy games more and more over the past few years. Sitting down and thinking my way through a situation tends to be more rewarding than running through tight corridors with an assault rifle looking to explode heads. Mind you, I still enjoy a good shooter from time-to-time, but strategy games are far more appealing right now, even if they are giant time sucks. I’ve also written a ton of science fiction and consumed a lot of it in my life, so Paradox’s new strategy game, Stellaris, seemed like something I had to buy.
There is such an over saturation of zombie games on the market. The blame rests solely on The Walking Dead because it made the entire zombie genre 'cool.' They created a subculture of lonely mothers who religiously wear t-shirts with pictures of Murphy MacManus promising riots #IfDarrylDies. You can easily spot these people as they make early exits from a showing of Day of the Dead. Honestly, outside of the early Resident Evil games, the only zombie game you need to play is Project Zomboid. You can’t proclaim to be an expert at zombie-survival if you can’t stay alive for a week while playing PZ.
I’m a fan of all things horror and have been since I was a little kid. Sneaking onto the staircase after my parents put me to bed to watch movies like Kairo, The Thing, and Alien through the slats on the bannister are some of my earliest memories. As fond as I am of terrifying fiction, though, I have accepted that the difficulty inherent to the genre’s execution leaves long gaps in between great works of horror. For me, these holes are felt most sorely in video games. I can’t remember the last time I played a modern horror game (PT was a demo, people) that couldn’t be boiled down to pressing the sprint button to the next jump scare, then backtracking so you can do the same thing in a new area. That’s not to say those types of games aren’t good on their own or entertaining; they just aren’t good horror.
I've been to a cemetery at 4 a.m. I was with my colleague Alex -- his name has not been changed to protect the identity of those involved. We armed ourselves with a camera and tequila. Our intention was to capture an orb with the flash of the camera; the fact that those orbs were really just dust particles did nothing to stop us. On that night we were ghost hunters, and while amateurs, we were still doing a better job than those clowns on the SyFy Network. We were pretty obsessed with the paranormal, actually. There was an intent to break into an abandoned hospital but a sleeping hobo thwarted our plans. Look, you don't know and don't want to know what's it's like to startled a sleeping homeless man.
Our fourth qualifying tournament of The 2016 Stoned Gamer Season wrapped up at Compassesh this past weekend, and it marked the end of our first group of competitors for our year-end Grand Finale Tournament, which will be held in California -- somewhere. We can't even tell you when everything is going down. The suspense we're building up is approaching M. Night Shyamalan levels. Well, M. Night before he directed The Last Airbender. Everything since then has been just ridic...oh, wait he's producing the new Tales from the Crypt series? Dammit, M. Night -- we need this one to be good. Just this one time.
You really don’t need to tell me that there are better shooters than the Call of Duty franchise, because I get it. Yet, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was a damned good game. At the time it felt fresh. After the shooter genre was bogged down with World War II for so long someone moved away from that and did so in one of the most fast-paced and balanced online multiplayer shooters in ages. As someone who had never really gotten hooked on playing a game online before, Modern Warfare was exactly that game that got me hooked.
By becoming a better version of ourselves we could actually become a worse version of what we were. Jared Fogle was a fat, pale, smelly, obese man at one time. He wasn't famous. He was just Jared -- ‘Fat Jared’ in the minds of those around his gravitational pull. Life was probably simpler before he lost all the weight and gained popularity with lazy Americans who'd rather lose weight by eating sandwiches than exercising and a researching a real diet. Jared was once morbidly obese but now he's thinner and incarcerated and it's thanks losing weight with subs -- without mayo. Fogle became a better version of himself and because of that, transformed into a monster.
Our third qualifying tournament of The 2016 Stoned Gamer Season was held at an event called @BlacklistSesh on May 1st 2016. In the history of our Stoned Gamer Tournaments, Blacklist Sesh was the fourth time we visited San Bernardino, CA. Granted, most of you know San Bernardino from that terrorist attack that happened just days before our Blazers Cup tournament. One day we're going to cut all the footage of politicians using San Bernardino to further their platform and then make it appear as if they're talking about us. Maybe we shouldn't have told you this and just made it happen instead. Damn.
At some point in the near future I’m going to have kids. I know that. This isn’t a stunning revelation or any sort of carefully planned out fact. I’m married, own a house, we both have jobs that allow us to live kind of comfortably and kids are a logical step. I’m also a guy that plays videogames and is totally alright with that. I grew up with them and, in a way, they grew up with me, becoming more mature and trying to continue appealing to me. That’s okay. Growing up, though, I was a Nintendo kid.
Three times now I’ve purchased the Square Enix open world game Sleeping Dogs. Three times. I think that the first might have been on Xbox 360 when they gave it away with Games with Gold, but I’m really not sure, I fiddled around with it a bit and it was really fun, but for some reason I didn’t keep going. This prompted a purchase during a Steam sale a long time ago, thinking that I’d get into it on PC where I could crank the graphics and goof around with it. I’m not sure that I’ve ever launched it.
Something that I’ve noticed, and I’m sure you have as well, is the sentiment of “Fuck 2016.” Every year features beloved celebrity deaths, but 2016 has felt like a real punch in the gut. Lemmy from Motorhead got the metalheads, David Bowie’s death took everyone by surprise and now the untimely demise of Prince has the world on end. Bowie was a huge blow, but man, I wasn’t ready for Prince, just no way. Oddly enough, Prince’s death came the same week that Banner Saga 2 was released and man, is that game depressing.
Like many others out there, the whole concept of the “PS4.5” or the “PS4 Neo” seems almost entirely lost on me. So Sony has it in their mind that they are going to release a new PlayStation 4 with updated hardware, which should be able to run newer games a bit more smoothly, but these games have to be developed to work on both the base-model PS4 and the PS4 Neo. A cursory glance at VGChartz shows us that Sony has moved a whopping 39.8 million units and counting of the PlayStation 4 over the span of the three years that it’s been available.
Just hours after we wrapped up the debut of The 2016 Stoned Gamer Tournament at Xtravaganja in San Diego, CA, the show was headed to San Bernardino, CA -- home of our first two tournaments, along with that ridiculous domestic terrorist attack that happened last year. Those killings actually occurred a week before Blazers Cup was scheduled to take place, located just minutes from the incident. We thought the event was going to be canceled, but fortunately the FBI and local police viewed the cannabis festival as a 'non-threatening gathering.' Only in California.
I’m not sure why it took me so long to play Firewatch, but it did. I’ve heard mixed things about, which seems to come with the territory in narrative-based games where you aren’t a mass murderer. The term “walking simulator” is used for games like this, but it’s usually seen as a detraction more than a genre label. It’s meant as an insult to games that are more contemplative and don’t see you taking control of a musclebound guy with a lot of guns at his disposal.
Our last Stoned Gamer Tournament took place at Blazers Cup last December, and it was undeniably the biggest event we've ever held on this planet. On other planets and solar systems, it ranked a little bit above average. If you don't believe us, feel free to check out the wrap-up article, filled with timeless photos of stoned gamers getting as high as humanly possible to crank out moves on our custom TSG Championship Edition Arcades. Granted, the photos are timeless because we got every competitor so high that the concept of time or space meant nothing to them.