[Link] Why I’ve Been Playing Undertale After the Election

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I think election night was a bad time for most of us. At least that’s what I’m assuming, since you’re reading an article about coping in the aftermath. I started out checking the incoming results excitedly, then compulsively, the same way you scratch as a bug bite even when it’s already bleeding. My partner was with me over video chat, and when I needed to either distract myself or escalate from rocking quietly in my chair to a fullblown panic attack, I suggested we finish playing Undertale.

It wasn’t something I picked out for some thematic reason. She’d wanted to see it but didn’t want to deal with the Bullet Hell gameplay, and I still had it in my Steam library even if I hadn’t played for a year. Simple as that. And while it might not have seemed like it as my partner and I were quietly crying on both sides of the connection – hearing the final tallies, feeling scared and sick – it turned out to be the best decision I made that night.

The rest is here!

Stardew Valley – Eldritch Lore? In MY Farming Sim?

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It’s possible that a person might wake up and realize, “well shit, I just spent 12 straight hours playing Stardew Valley; guess I’d better write about it.” Possibly it is less extreme for those without obsessive disorders, but I get the feeling I’m not entirely alone in this whole unexpected time loss thing. It lures you in with the hypnotic cycle of daily tasks that’s become a staple of so many mobile games, and when you look up again you realize 50 hours have passed and you’re not sure if you’re angrier at the game or at life for taking you away from the game.

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Hatoful Boyfriend Writes its Own Fanfiction

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After finally knuckling down to get a Steam account in order to start at least trying to catch up on my lengthy to-play list, I wound up crying more tears than my previous years of gaming combined. The first offender was The Walking Dead Season 1, aka “Ugly Cry Generator 2k12;” the other was Hatoful Boyfriend. You know, the pigeon dating sim?

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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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Artist Spotlight – AgentJR & Genghis Kait

It’s something of a custom around here to use this week of American Turkey Day to shine a spotlight on underappreciated artists. To that end, let’s talk about Let’s Players: folks who record themselves playing video games in whole or in part for the enjoyment of others. It’s often not a highly respected art, derided as riding on the coattails of other creative endeavors by people who don’t understand the time and effort of play time, editing, and presenting one’s own persona as part of the experience that all go into a well-made Let’s Play.

Not to mention that video games (before we even touch problems with the community mentality) are the most exclusionary art form out there aside from, perhaps, Broadway. Certainly it’s the only art form that deliberately plans its own obsolescence and correspondingly wrings potential consumers for every penny of disposable income they have, backed up by an emphasis on modernity that demands being able to put down those large sums regularly at launch in order to find the factor of community involvement even slightly surmountable. And never mind if you come late to the party and find yourself interested in a game that’s four or five years old. Good luck finding it and potentially a system to play it on (if indeed it existed as physical media and was not ghosted a la the infamous PT). And so Let’s Plays can come to serve not just as entertainment but as historical documents for curious viewers who lack the means, equipment, skill, or time to tackle a game themselves.

And while I am quite the fan of well-known individuals like Jim Sterling, Laura Kate, and Markiplier (an example of how modern Players have shaded into the realm of sketch comedy, but certainly a kind and generous individual with some enjoyable longform LPs), today I wanted to focus on two channels who’ve been consistently talented and entertaining and deserve far, far more recognition than they get – one old, one new.

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Examining (and Destabilizing) Gender in Silent Hill 2

despondent james

Editor’s note: Waaaaaay back when I was starting my Consulting Analyst series on Silent Hill, I promised that when it concluded I would show you all a very special little piece of nostalgia: 21 year old Vrai’s senior thesis; or, what you might call the very first Consulting Analyst. 

Parts of this are still rough around the edges – it lacks the easygoing tone I’ve developed for analytic discussion in years since, it’s evident I haven’t really learned the complex language to make a truly meaningful discussion of gender-as-spectrum rather than as modified binary, and God help me since it’s an academic paper I felt compelled to mention Freud (in comparison to younger me, I mainly abstain in favor of Lacan instead). 

But even still, I’m proud of where I’ve come from. Of my continuing weird and deeply personal fondness for James Sunderland. So please, come enjoy this trip to the past with me.

(Oh, and pack a lunch. This sucker was the capstone of four years of work, and it’s about two and a half times the length of your average Consulting Analyst).

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The Consulting Analyst – Silent Hill Downpour

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[Apologies for the late arrival, readers. Please enjoy this last look into the Silent Hill franchise, and – barring a last minute deluge of voters – prepare to enjoy some Dumas-inspired analysis to take this franchise’s place in the future.]

The final stop on our tour (because at present there’s nothing I can say about PT’s present that hasn’t been covered more adroitly, and it hasn’t been long enough for a real post-mortem; and Book of Memories isn’t part of the mainline canon) is the first draft of a really great Silent Hill game. This was tragically undermined by the fact that it got lumped into Konami’s shortsighted attempt to flood the market with three SH games during its 2012 “Month of Madness,” and the fact that despite getting delayed multiple times the final product was still a bug-ridden mess on top of the arguable conceptual problems. I mean, it came out better than the HD Collection, but desiccated corpses repurposed as compost heaps come out with a better smell of quality than the HD Collection did.

The main protagonist – well, the player character (more on that later) of Downpour is Murphy Pendleton (David Boyd Konrad), a prison inmate who winds up in Silent Hill when the bus transporting him to a maximum security facility crashes at the edge of town. Murphy is pursued by dogged police officer Anne Cunningham, and haunted by the town’s usual bag of head-spelunking hallucinations. You can watch a pretty thorough walkthrough of it here (alas, I’ve never found a version with commentary that particularly appealed).

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