Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dear Esther

I have these bouts of craziness where I become completely obsessed with video games. I loved playing WoW, but I had sort of entered the fray when the fad had somewhat ended, which made it hard to play as a single-player (for a non-hardcore player like me). This was mainly because to level up faster I needed to do quests or dungeon runs with people. I became frustrated with the game and turned to other games that I liked., such as The Sims, Sims 2, or Sims 3. Those games typically ended in the standard development of Sims, no matter what expansions I added and I'd fall into doing the same thing over and over and over again anyways.  Then I wonder about my web-based games like Kingdom of Loathing or. . . my high school favorite, Neopets. I play Neopets only for the little webgames that mimic other popular webgames. Some of these games now have popular versions on Facebook, but I don't have to worry about paying or ads or anything if I play them on Neopets.
So I continue to re-enter WoW now and again to try to pick up my character, but I still fall into my old rut or not being able to get far or level up in a faster way. So I pull out my old standby. . .

I started playing Kingdom of Loathing in 2007 during a time when my life was chaotic. Ray introduced me to the game and we played together. We'd share items and we joined a guild together. I still pop on to play once in a while, but they've had some changes and it makes it hard for me to log in or I feel too out of step to achieve certain things. I usually head back into the game in December when the site celebrates Crimbo, which is always a great deal of fun with special christmas-based quests and items. Sometimes they break out and do great holiday themed stuff. I try to check-in often for neat gimmicks. Like right now they're doing something for their Trick-or-Treat quest and I'm keeping an eye on it. I enjoy being a Pastamancer, but there are some pretty fun characters you can be.

I love the game so much that I have Kingdom of Loathing pint glasses and Friend Jim funded Mr. Card Game from Kickstarter as a present for me a year ago (We're hoping it arrives someday. . .haha)! I like the nerdland quality of the webgame and I love the stick figures. When I teach my kids and ask them to draw stuff and they get all self-conscious about drawing pictures. I tell them to try their best and stick figures are alright by me. I'm anxious to see the game, though, because I'm excited about how I could potentially use it in my classroom.

Sadly, there are times when these oldy-but-goody games don't feed the need I have for gaming. Sure I could pick up one of my gaming consoles and play out my games there. I am still a firm believer in the awesomeness of Wii. My daughter now loves playing with it, so that's a bonus. Our Xbox360 is always left in question for me. A certain owner of a certain system tried to fix some of the problems with it and I still haven't ascertained its current functional status. If I did, though, start a game on a console on our TV, my daughter wouldn't give me the space I needed. Plus a certain husband wants to watch his MSNBC shows. . .bllllaaaaaaaaaaaahhhh.

That leaves me with computer games. I have been lurking around Steam for a while. I learned about Humble Bundles over the summer and I found out that Friend Jim and Ray were playing games they purhcased through Humble Bundle on this site called Steam. Look at them leaving me out of everything cool. Granted, my time is incredibly limited for gaming, but sometimes you just need that release from all the anxiety and stress.

Since my husband left for the night to tabletop game (I didn't go, because we didn't have a sitter for my daughter), I wanted to play a "video game" (I also had a day off the next day). I'd been itching to play for a while. So I kept browsing Steam, but I also didn't have the money to drop on a new game. I texted Friend Jim and when he got home from work he listed off a bunch of games that Ray had on Steam, since I didn't hear back from my husband about the PC games he had and where they had been stored during the move. So I logged into my husband's Steam account (oh evil wife that I am) and started browsing the games Friend Jim recommended. Not surprising, none were what I was really looking for, but it was something different to engage with.

The game I opted to play, because upon opening the game the visuals stunned me, was Dear Esther. Dear Esther is a story-driven game from The Chinese Room, a British game development company. You walk through a landscape and have elements of the story revealed to you. Instead of it just being a clue-finding game, you have parts of the story shared as you arrive at each location. What throws me off is it being a first-person point of view. I'm used to having a more third-person perspective on a game. It feels more comfortable. That's probably why I don't play FP-shooter games.

Bottom line here is that I branched out into a new gaming platform and I am totally psyched about it. Dear Esther told an incredibly spooky story that offered great visual surprises throughout the story. You are on an island and you are listening to voice-overs of letters to a woman named Esther.  It has a very British feel to it, which I found enjoyable. Replay-ability has at least an additional play or two out of it now that I've gone through it once for the standard effect of the game. I learned that certain pieces of information are omitted and offered during certain plays depending on which letters or areas are accessed. The game in its four parts was long, but I found it to have unique gaming features and a compelling storyline that had me spooked enough to be freaked when my daughter snuck downstairs and ambushed me with claims of her face hurting (she has a mouth owie). 

I was pretty into the game. It was like watching a movie, but not. It wasn't a stressful game and I was able to finish it in one sitting, which always makes me feel a little bit more fulfilled. I mean, for example, I have so many half-done entries on this site, I have anxiety over whether or not they'll be finished! So it was one less anxiety on my plate.

Now I recommend a play of it if you're looking for something a little disturbing this time of year and you're looking for something visually stunning with a simplistic gameplay style. Just watch out for the water and the shadows!

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