Hello all, it's me Aaron the Webguy taking over Alexie's blog post for this week. Alexie Aaron is currently (figuratively) chained to her desk writing. Since she tends to be a very busy person, writing at what I can only describe as a frantic but deliberate pace, I asked if I could help fill in for her now and then. So with that thought in mind, I present to you Aaron's Ramblings, a blog posting of my very own that might stray from the beaten path a little bit. Though, I promise that it will always be in the same wheelhouse as Alexie's work. All manner of things supernatural, mysterious, or just something creative with deep characters, they are all fair game. So, if you are interested in checking out something new, or just kind enough to listen to my ramblings, please join me for what I hope will be a fun read.
Okay, so this one time playing Dungeons and Dragons, my character Arnold Dwarfenegger totally did this awesome thing right?....
Just kidding of course! While it's true that I enjoy Dungeons and Dragons tabletop gaming, I doubt I would be the right guy to sell you all on the subject. Back in college, my friends got me very, very drunk and introduced me to the game. I quickly learned that I am unable to do basic arithmetic when under the effect of spirituous alcohol, but that's a whole other story. Now that I put myself out there with a ridiculous example of my love of all things that many people would yell "Nerd!" at, I hope the next subject will seem tame by comparison.
Oh yes, I have been an avid "gamer" since I was but a lad of six who went to a friend's house and played Contra and Bubble Bobble on their Nintendo system. It was a simpler time, when I didn't mind that the story of many of these games basically consisted of poorly translated Engrish like:
While video games have come a long way in 25 years, it would be charitable of me to say that most stories in video games are still pure rubbish. So why in the world am I talking about it on an author's website? I am because when you find one of those rare games that breaks the trend and has a worthwhile story, there is simply nothing else like it. Gaming is an interactive medium that has the awesome potential for immersion. Immersion such as when you lose your sense of time playing and realize you haven't eaten in 12 hours. Being the person in control allows you a chance of doing something outrageous or impossible. The truly amazing games have a real story that pulls you in like a great novel.
While I'm sure there are Alexie Aaron fans out there who could kick my butt in a competitive games, I decided to list my recommendations for someone inexperienced in the world of gaming. I also didn't want to recommend games that require anyone to break the bank or invest in any sort of new hardware. Accessibility is key, and the first game I want to mention is a browser based game.
Fallen London, developed by Failbetter Games, is a free choose-your-own-adventure game with a Gothic and witty tone. Imagine if Victorian London had sunk into the ocean, and somehow, everyone had the "stiff upper lip" resolve to carry on in a world of darkness and mystery. You play as yourself, or rather a character you make, while trying to advance and make a name for yourself in whatever specialty you choose. Be a silent pickpocket with a heart of gold, a dangerous thug with dreams of anarchy, or a careful detective who needs to beguile and charm your way into high society. It's all done with a simple click, and this leads to another bit of brilliant storytelling which builds the world around you. Why is this literal Devil trying to seduce me? What is prisoner's honey made out of exactly? Do I trust the self-titled Last True Constable to not be as corrupt as the rest of them? For all these questions, you find bits and scraps of information that give you context, but many times, it is never as simple as it seems.
The reason I recommended this one first is probably because I am addicted to it currently, and its so very easy to play. The menus and the help tab do a great job at getting you the information you need to start right away, and anyone looking for more details can check out this guide. It works as a great way to break up your day since it only allows you have so many actions at a given time. For example, while I am writing this, I check back to Fallen London every so often to clear my head by progressing another story a little bit more. Oh, and in the game, I'm a totally accomplished writer, so I can live a little but of the Alexie Aaron dream. Try this one, out and feel free to invite firstname.lastname@example.org (my non gender specific Shadowy character) out to Caligula's Coffee House sometime.
Sunless Sea is the follow up to Fallen London by Failbetter games (I really like these guys' stories, I guess). I actually picked this game, before even trying Fallen London, from the gaming service Steam,on a whim, since it received such high praise from trusted reviewers. Sunless Sea is a "roguelike" game, meaning that it's meant to be played multiple times since the Unterzee (Undersea) is a dangerous place. Your first captain's demise will happen all too soon, but when you start again, you will have learned something to keep the next captain afloat. Warning: upcoming video's music is a bit loud.
Just like Fallen London, the story is told in bits and pieces as you descend farther and farther into the Zee (Sea). You're a brave captain, of dubious origins, who sails out with a quest to recover your father's bones, or just to become wealthy enough to afford a Zeaside Mansion. Sunless Sea is dripping in atmosphere as you go out an explore the world around you. You can run into islands filled with talking rats and guinea pigs, or encounter the strange culture of the New Khanate - all while hoping that you brought enough supplies to be able to return to a port of safety. When you limp back from a trip to the Zee, with yourself and your crew terrified, the feeling of relief you get hearing the welcoming music of Fallen London's harbor is amazing.
This one is a little more advanced than Fallen London for a newcomer, but don't let the combat in the trailer turn you off the game because you can always run. I know because I have seen some crazy stuff on my travels on the Unterzee. You would be surprised how terrified you can get when you let yourself be swallowed whole by Sunless Sea.
Here are my last two recommendations. I decided to group them together since they are both very similar in terms of gameplay. If you are a fan of either of the these shows, you owe it to yourself to explore what it would be like being a character within them. The Walking Dead Season 1 and Game of Thrones a Telltale Game Series are both excellent tributes to their original material. They are both classified as story-driven games that play out differently based on the choices you make.
Starting with Telltale's The Walking Dead I can say that this game really dug into my guts... emotionally more than a zombie would. I've read most of the comics, have watched all of the AMC television show, and can say, without hyperbole, that this game is the best version of all of them. It all revolves around the story of our protagonist Lee Everett and his struggle to not only survive the horrors, but also to hold on to his humanity while he tries his best to care for a little girl. Clementine is just a kid, but truly one of gaming's best characters. I'm not ashamed in the slightest to admit that parts of this game made me tear up a bit. Now that is a true accomplishment, not because it made me shed a totally manly single-drop-movie-tear, but because the writing made me feel both regret and joy over the choices I had made.
Game of Thrones: A Telltale Game Series has many of the same characteristics of the Walking Dead game from Telltale, but some differences as well. Just like the show and books, you will find yourself jumping around, playing as different people and with different points of view. You play as members of the Northern House Forrester, starting right around the big event that happens in season 3 of the show and the third book in George R. R. Martin's series. This means that it's hard to recommend to people who have never watched Game of Thrones, though the story you play is focused around this main event, so it is up to you.
This game is still being made, and the final episode is still to come. I believe that it will help scratch that itch of not having any new episodes of the show till next year. For avid fans, you really can't go wrong exploring more of George R. R. Martin's fantasy epic.
There you have it, everyone, a small sample of video games that I believe are worthwhile to check out if you are looking for something exciting and new. For those in the know about gaming, I know I went a little Indie rather than mention the triple A games, but trust me, I have lots of those in my top ten list. If anyone has any recommendations themselves, please list them in the comments below, along with any questions. Also, don't be afraid to email me with any detailed questions if any issues arise while trying out any of these games.
Well, that wraps up my first blog of Aaron's Ramblings. For those of you courageous enough to make it to the end, I will of course dish out some extra news on our current projects. The Ask Alexie post had a ton of awesome ideas from all of you, and speaking for myself, I am definitely working on a few projects inspired by your ideas. Many little things are in the works, and as soon as I have definite news, you all will know too. Alexie's lastest Haunted Series novel The Old House is currently being edited, and the dream of release before summer's end is looking good. Also, for the Cin Fin-Lathen fans, Alexie has news and will update us next week. She has a wicked smile on her face - this can't be good.
Thank you all for reading, and have a great one!