The Value of OFF after Undertale

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It can be difficult to recommend OFF in a post-Undertale world. After all, it would seem that everything Mortis Ghost’s 2008 indie darling had to offer was revisited and built upon by Toby Fox’s recent masterpiece. OFF, in broad strokes, is basically equivalent to being locked into a Genocide Run; only without the other, redemptive half of the story on offer. This isn’t to say that OFF is somehow to blame for this: the seven year gap between the two games spans the death throes of the PS2, the entire 360/PS3 generation and the beginning of current-gen and nascent VR; it’s to be expected that there would be leaps and bounds in what could potentially be programmed even before taking in Toby’s experience as a modder versus what was, by all appearances, the first time effort of an amateur developer. I come not to dismiss OFF nor to bury Undertale, but to ask: what does a landmark work have to offer when future generations build on its best ideas?

As you might suppose, extensive spoilers for two excellent games will follow hereafter.

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And Now, Games to be Watched

Are you finally living on your own, but desperate to recreate the experience of listening to a drunken roommate or sibling scream at bundles of code, as interpreted through a low quality microphone? Then you can only be suffering from a lethal case of nostalgia poisoning, and should seek help immediately – the heady aroma of old socks and cheetos should snap you out of it (okay, that’s my one gamer slob joke, just to get the stereotype out of the way). If, on the other hand, you’re one of the many people with an interest in videogames but without the ailing and befuddled millionaire spouse or back pocket oil field necessary to support the hobby, I have good news.

On this newfangled series of tubes there’s a whole genre known as the “Let’s Play,” or LP. They can range from screenshot-with-commentary (a familiar format around these parts), to silent video walkthroughs, to highlight reels. But the most popular use is to show off a game in its entirety with player commentary over top, either “blind” to create the experience of an average player or experienced to show off the ‘ideal’ experience.

WHAT?! I hear you saying, running several blocks to flip the nearest table while screaming about the importance of the interactive experience. Behind the noise are those arching one kempt eyebrow, wondering what the point would be in watching someone else play insert-stereotypical-casual-game-here when you could be downloading for free. The thing is, at their very best LPs are like the ultimate fancy tv sports package – the players are engaging and knowledgeable about the game, talented enough to keep the viewer from suffering through repeated failures but easygoing enough to endear themselves. Some of them even offer that delicious bonus known as context, show off things the average gamer couldn’t find for themselves, or suffer for the sake of your so-bad-it’s-unbelievable curiosity.

Since I’m forever harping on the ‘good stories can come in any form’ chestnut, I thought I’d offer five of my favorites from this glorious internet born oddity, each with a different type of appeal to scratch that co-gamer itch. Because I just got tired of tying people up to sit next to me when I booted up the game machine.

Know a great specimen I missed? I’d love to hear about it down in the comments.

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