One year ago I started what turned into a “season” of Mario Kart 8, complete with gameplay tweaks and paid downloadable content (DLC). It’s the first time I’ve played a Nintendo game that has bought into the “long-tail” content and add-on strategy that is so prevalent in the large publisher space. Instead of a capsule frozen in time, Mario Kart 8 got something similar to the season pass and map pack treatment. The question is: how did this work out?
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It’s hard becoming a better person. I want to know the right things to say, the right things to do, in every circumstance. Of course I am not perfect, but I can try to learn from past mistakes. This is, of course, easier said than done.
We human beings do not generally enjoy confronting our mistakes. It’s also not always clear where mistakes are made or who is most to blame. By the time a project or endeavor comes crashing down around you, it may be too late to find the crucial flaw in its design.
One of the most maddening and one of the coolest things about Bloodborne is that it just doesn’t care if you miss things. I’m not talking about optional dialogue trees or one-off cutscenes. I’m talking about entire mechanics, huge boss fights, or even the story itself. Bloodborne has depth and complexity, and on top of that is a layer of obscurity that requires you to examine the game from every angle. As a consequence, it’s easy to wander through Bloodborne with a constant fear of missing out.
The trick is realizing that you will miss out on things. There is just too much for anyone but the most incredibly dedicated player to learn and find on their own. Consequently, the game maintains a sense of mystery throughout all of its stages and each discovery feels a little more special. There are plenty of things that I’ve either partially or totally missed out on, but I’ve found that ultimately I’m okay with that.
The strongest moment in Never Alone doesn’t occur while playing. Instead it comes during one of the puzzle-platformer’s numerous documentary shorts, which are called “Cultural Insights.” In it, members of the Iñupiat Alaskan indigenous tribe describe the act of storytelling. Like many oral traditions from around the world, their stories impart unique cultural wisdom. They speak to the context of their lives, of their history, and of their future. “We all live in stories,” one interview describes, “And they need to be told. They need to be heard.”
There is a sort of melancholy plea in the speaker’s voice as he says this last line, and as these vignettes of Cultural Insight continue, peppered throughout the game, the weight of desire becomes evident. Look around games, books, films, whatever. The stories of marginalized communities are told too rarely. They are stories meant to be shared, but in many real ways, they are dying. I want to make very clear the respect Upper One Games deserves for making a game with an all too rare perspective before I say this, but Never Alone is a failure in storytelling.
Last week here on PopMatters, Scott Juster compared playing Bloodborne to exercising. He’s right. Playing the game can feel like a gradual and painful investment towards self-improvement. But what of the social elements of Bloodborne? How do the in-game and meta social interactions surrounding the game contribute to the experience of play? To me, Bloodborne is a lot like walking on flaming hot coals.
It sounds strange, but hear me out. Firewalking and and playing Bloodborne really are quite similar, and not just because both sound excruciatingly painful. If you want to compare the two, you can pretty easily create your own firewalking experience at home. First create a small bonfire, traditionally made of hardwood. After a few hours, rake the coals into a rectangular bed of about eight or so feet in length if you’re looking to take a short stroll or upwards of twenty feet for a longer jaunt. Now step onto the coals and walk as briskly as possible without losing your dignity.
// Sound Affects
"Get a drink, have a good time now. Welcome to paradise, and read all about the 305th most acclaimed album of all time. An Australian plunderphonics pioneer is this week’s Counterbalance.READ the article