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I don’t own any guns, I don’t go hunting, and I’ve never been to a gun show.  Playing with a BB gun is the closest I’ve ever come to firing a real gun.

When it comes to virtual guns, it’s a whole different story.  I’ve taken down entire squadrons with a sniper rifle.  I can differentiate a rifle from a submachine gun with a quick glance.  I’m adept at handling everything from advanced artillery installations to vintage World War II pistols.

Or at least I like to fool myself into thinking this.  In reality, I’m quite disconnected from the basic realities of guns.  My knowledge is mostly confined to surface level observations that ignore the mechanical and social dynamics of the firearms simulated in most games.  Thanks to a couple of gun-focused games and an excellent piece of gun-focused journalism, I realize now that I haven’t given this blindspot enough attention.  Granted, simply recognizing a blind spot is only the first step in correcting it, but you have to start somewhere.

The release of Dead Space 3 brings with it the well-worn discussion of cooperative horror games. For the first time in the series, Isaac Clarke teams up with Sergeant John Carver to offer players a cooperative xenomorph-killing extravaganza. For a vocal bunch of players, the additional company might be fun, but saps the game of its horror roots. Pushed by popular discourse, I fear we may settle on the false assumption that horror and co-op gaming are simply incompatible. While most conversations pit co-op play against “isolation” and “immersion”, I think we can find a place for multiplayer horror games by balancing vulnerability and mutual reliance in games.

I’m not the biggest fan of the Dragonball Z series, mainly because I get bored waiting for people to charge up their power levels, hearing people discuss their power levels, and being surprised others’ power levels do not match their expectations.  I like an “over 9000” joke as much as the next Internet denizen, but I prefer a little more interactivity in my melodrama.  Enter: Asura’s Wrath.

Few game franchises remain so enduring and immutable as the Pokémon series. Every entry into the franchise takes the same fundamental game system, even the same narrative, and transplants them almost entirely into another region. For outsiders looking in, Pokémon‘s steadfast design appears tedious. On the other hand, Pokémon aficionados, particularly those willing to create their own goals and strategies, see not a rigid system, but a flexible world. Those willing to take the “Nuzlocke Challenge” may find a difficult yet enriching experience that teaches them as much about pokémon training as it does about system design.

The Nuzlocke Challenge first appeared in a comic titled “Pokémon: Hard Mode,” written and illustrated by someone named, of course, Nuzlocke. The challenge is simple and has only two core rules. First, players may only catch the first pokémon that they see in a new area. If the pokémon flees or faints, the player is simply out of luck and must continue on regardless. Second, if a pokémon faints in battle, it considered “dead” and must be released or placed into a PC box. Funtionally, the Nuzlocke Challenge is Pokémon with permadeath.

Julian Barnes’ novel, The Sense of an Ending, explores the nature of memory and how the documented past often conflicts with our personal recollection of events.  The book is split between two main sections: one in which Tony is a young man who responds to romantic disappointment with a detached dry wit and one in Tony’s retirement years.  With most of his life behind him, he unexpectedly receives a letter that prompts him to reevaluate his memory of those formative college years.  Faced with old writings from both himself and his friends, he struggles to reconcile the immaturity, irresponsibility, and bitterness apparent in the historical record with his personal heroic recollections.

It’s an understated, narrowly-focused story about one person’s life, but the underlying concepts are universal. Our mental notion of the past is a continually shifting concept that can be upset by even the smallest piece of contrary documentation.  It’s probably a good lesson to apply to all facets of life, but in the interest of starting small, let’s focus on video games.  The proliferation of the Internet has provided an unprecedented opportunity to record and then access past events.  Going forward, our memories of the kinds of games we play, how we play them, and the culture surrounding them will routinely bump up against the recorded past.

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