Best horror games

If you love a puzzle…

Limbo is actually a pretty simple game design, and yet somehow it just works. You play as a little boy, wondering through different areas trying to find his sister. It is almost all in black and white (or at least super muted tones) and works mostly based on shadows. Now while this game isn’t the traditional ‘horror’ game, it is definitely a game that puts you on edge and makes you feel uneasy: At one point, you hack off a giant spider’s legs with a bear trap, and at another point you lure murderous children (or at least slightly older than you teenagers) to death-by-stomping-machine…All while very little is explained to you and there is no more story than what you piece together as you go.

Image result for limbo gameSimple, yet effective

The puzzles are just challenging enough to make you think, while still being hard enough that it may test your patience attempting them four or five times. The art work is both calming and unsettling, and it’s simplicity is probably what makes it so enjoyable. It is definitely worth a play if you fancy something that’s scary while still being charming.

For the survivalist…

Outlast (1+2…so this may be a cop out…) is a survival horror game. In both games you play as some poor man who just ended up in the wrong place at the very worst time possible. In Outlast 1, you are trying to escape a mental asylum, and in Outlast 2, you are trying to rescue your wife from a mental religious cult: Po-tay-to po-tar-to. In both games however you are armed with nothing but relatively good stamina and a video camera to document your journey…and help you navigate the very dark crawl spaces. You have no weapons to fight back with and so you can either run or hide from the vast array of scary characters who want nothing more than to harm you.

Image result for outlastA little visit in Outlast

Both games are terrifying, and not only because you can’t fight back. Both games are really quite graphic with the blood, violence and mutilation that you are bound to encounter (so I suppose parental guidance should be stated!) and so is not a game for the fainthearted for that reason more than anything. The stories may be relatively flimsy – in many cases you aren’t sure why or how you even got into this situation in the first place – but the overall pace of the game is so well structured that you rarely get time to think about anything other than escaping…preferably with as many limbs as possible still attached to you. Jump scares galore, graphic violence and some truly terrifying moments, this game will definitely keep you up at night.

For the nostalgia….

Resident Evil VII was largely a success…while it may have varied a lot from the original games of the 90s, the game had a lot of nods to them for the fans. The game itself, was actually a lot of fun. While it may have been a relatively short game (roughly 8-9 hours) it was packed with everything you would expect from a horror: jump scares, abandoned houses, viruses, plagues, bugs, demon possessed families and even creepier non-possessed adults. The best thing about this game was also the high tech aspect of it all: Playing the high-resolution, wonderfully life-like animated game was bad enough without playing it in virtual reality. This game had everything you would want; decent story line, lots of monsters, lots of levels and, most importantly, lots of weapons to defeat them all with. If you don’t feel like sleeping for a long time, then have a go at this!

Image result for resident evil 7Meet the Bakers

Just because you like the scares…

Slenderman (again, a slight cop out) is not necessarily a ‘game’ in the same way the above mentioned are: There isn’t really a story passed the point of ‘Slenderman wants you dead’ and ‘find the papers’. The game, despite it’s simplicity, really is quite fun and is actually a bit of a cult classic these days. It’s surprising how scary a little bit of static on your screen can make you and I promise you, no matter how many times you play the game, it will still make you nervous when it happens. There isn’t much else to say on this game because there really isn’t much to it apart from jump scares, but if you just want a little game to play with people or because you’re bored one night, then this is the game for it.

Image result for slender manSlenderman awaits….

Similarly to the above is Five Nights at Freddy’s…because…well this one is pretty self explanatory!

For the nightmares…

While this demo is pretty hard to come across now (the game itself was scrapped before full release) it was truly scary. It was a demo released to raise interest for a new horror game made by Kojima Productions and featured the acting talent of The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus. It was pretty basic in theory: You walk a long a corridor of a house, walk through a door in the basement, which then brings you out at the start of the corridor again while all the while changing to become more horrific each cycle. I think almost everyone is aware of the fetus in the bathroom sink….yeah…that’s somehow not the most unnerving of things you will see in this game. If you are looking for nightmares then just watch the game play of this because it is genuinely unsettling…and if you’re brave/stupid enough to actually play the game then be prepared for a psychological trip.

Image result for PT gameOh hey…

What about you guys? What are some of your favourite horror games?

T xx

 

 

Top 5 Relaxing Games

Animal crossing New leaf

To be honest, I could have picked any of the games from the Animal crossing franchise, but this one is my favourite. It is just adorable! Granted, I have not been back to my little village in a LONG time but the sentiment is always there. You play as a little Amibo character that is moving to a new little town. You can pick the name of it, its general map layout and your own personal appearance for your little character who you will soon live vicariously through. My little town, for example, was called Snorlax, it was centred right on the coast with a little stream running through it and my house with its little pink roof sat prettily on the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea.

This game is so cute…and is so unbelievably relaxing. Yes there are little tasks you can do and little objectives you have to meet, but there is no real time limit on it: I played the game pretty solidly for about a year and I am still only on about 10% happiness for the town. But my town is so cute! I can spend my evenings wondering around picking fruit from the local trees, organising my flower gardens, creating statues and monuments for my little animal neighbours to enjoy, or I can simply spend the day in the ocean, swimming and fishing. Now everything you collect in your town can be sold for coins (sharks, for example, are worth about 400 of those) and as you build up your coins you can then start to decorate your little house, build extensions and design the layout as you want.

Image result for animal crossing gifsAaaaaand…relax…

This game has limited potential as there is always something to do to keep you busy. While it may seem dull to some, it is no doubt the most relaxing game I have ever played and is easy to lose endless hours over.

Pokemon Sun

Now this game goes without saying: It’s Pokemon! This game is the newest release from the Pokemon franchise and I love it. The new Pokemon are adorable and exciting, while the revamp of some of the more classic first Generation Pokemon pretty much made my life complete: Icy Vulpix is probably even more adorable than a firey one!

Image result for ice vulpix^^ Look at his little face!! ^^

The game itself is pretty free-roaming. You have little tasks to complete and battles you need to win, but there isn’t any time limit on this. I spent most of my time collecting as many Pokemon as I could, trying on new clothes and outfits in the little shops and mostly just looking at the beautiful artwork in it: The game is based loosely on Hawaii and it is very clear to see as you stroll through the different tropical islands with golden sand beaches, crystal clear waters and the warm glow of a digitally created sun.

The main reason I find this game is so relaxing is beqause it’s so easy to delve in to: The story is just enough to keep you interested in progressing, but not so complicated you get confused. The characters are likeable and, most importantly, you can now interact and cuddle your Pokemon! I would play with my team of Pokemon so much that all of them (Ninetales especially) would be absolute beats in the battle arena: I once had my Ninetales on 1% hp for 9 ROUNDS because everytime it was hit, a little bubble would pop up to say that Ninetales toughed it out so I wouldn’t be sad. How is that not the cutest??!!

I won’t get into the whole ‘Pokemon promotes animal abuse’ because I honestly think that’s a bit farfetched an idea (more on this in a later post I think!) but this game is truly a delight and if you haven’t played this before, I would highly recommend it!

Journey

Where to begin…I love a puzzle. I like to see myself as the logical, problem solver and this game is just that. Also, it is just beautiful to look at: You play as a little floaty person in a big old cape and scarf, wondering around the dessert. At some point, you find another little floaty person and the two of you have to work together to solve puzzles and complete the game. The reality of it is that each floaty person is an actual player…there are no AIs, and that in itself is quite lovely…that the two of you, wherever and whoever you are, come together to play this game.

Image result for journey game gifsIt’s just so pretty! ^^

The imagery itself is just beyond beautiful. Everything may be somewhat golden for the most of it but it’s calming and warm and based more on problem solving abilities than it is based on brute strength or strategy. The music is perfect, the game is stunning, and the little floaty fellow is surprisingly charismatic.

DC Injustice

So this one may not be on the same level as the others as it is basically Mortal Kombat with a DC skin. And I know it didn’t get much praise, but I for one love it, for no other reason than there is something strangely relaxing about beating someone up as Batman. I have used this game as a stress relief…while it is frowned upon for me to punch a rude customer in the face, it is practically expected of Harley Quinn to smash someone repeatedly with a huge hammer. As macabre as that may seem, or even unnecessarily violent, it is simply fun. It is a fun game, to play by yourself or with friends (the real trick is remaining friends after you’ve beaten them 5 times in a row as Catwoman) and you can just feel all the stress and anger of the day leave you. Also, I will point out that while it may appear violent, this game is actually incredibly PG compared to the original mortal Kombat games. There isn’t really much to this game by way of story (again, I only really play the fighting chapters) but there is definitely something relaxing about bashing your opponents into the stratosphere or exploding them with a bomb-filed cherry pie. Trust me, one little play of this as your favourite DC character (hero or villain) will make a little less stressed from the woes of working life.

Image result for dc injustice gifsGotta love a bit of Raven

What games have you guys found to be super relaxing? Let me know and I will probably give them a try!

T xx

Where are all the women?

I love video games, but I must admit that even I am fed up of not being able to play as a female character within games…especially the big blockbuster ones. Granted, in recent years video games have developed into more than just a male free-for-all in game play, with games such as Skyrim and Pokemon that allow you to customise the playable character to your own liking, and even games such as Overwatch and For Honour allow you to play as the female characters. But what about the big action games? In a sample of 669 action, shooter, and role-playing games selected in 2012, 45% provided the option of playing as a female, but only 4% had an exclusively female protagonist.

Why men?

For starters, video games historically were more directed at a male based audience: We all have the image of a ‘classic nerd’, with his glasses on, in his pants, playing a video game for hours at a time, stopping only to chug down an energy drink of choice and some form of processed food. Due to this, video games have been very stereotypical seen as a male dominated past time and as such will have the male leads in the game as the strapping, bad-ass hero, with women there more for the eye-candy than for their character development. This stereotype of ‘only boys play video games’ is most definitely not true in today’s society: A study by The Pew Research Center found that 48% of video game players were female, which shows that there is no longer a huge difference in gaming habits between the genders. However, it also found that only 6% of those women who played video games would define themselves as a ‘gamer’, compared to the 15% of men. perhaps this is why most video games are directed at men, because they are the self-professed ‘gamers’ within society whereas women only appear to play them for fun and leisure, rather than as a serious past time.

Damsel in distress

Mario and Zelda are two games that have basically formed their entire game play around this theory: beautiful girl is locked away somewhere, and our brave hero must go and rescue her. Now I understand the appeal…it can be a noble and brave act to rescue someone from a dire situation, and let’s be honest I’m sure most men love the idea of being a virtual Brave Knight…or a younger James Bond. I get it…that can be fun! But in many of these games the females are nothing more than a prize that the males have earned by facing all the challenges that they have done throughout the game i order to rescue her. I hope I am not alone in this feeling, but I would much rather play a game about the females story: She could fight her way back home while the male is still working out how to craft a stronger sword or which drain pipe leads to which platform.

Image result for link saves zelda gif

The Damaged Woman

In many ways, men in video games can go on the adventures they like because they simply WANT to do so, whereas with women it almost needs to be justified. There needs to be a REASON as to why they want to go on an adventure, or why they behave the way they do: Mia in Resident Evil VII was wielding chainsaws because she was possessed by a vengeful young girl (not entirely true, but there will be no spoilers from me!) who in turn, only possessed people because she was desperate for a family setting of her own. Evie (the little girl) was evil because she wanted a family, whereas the Bakers’ son Lucas was evil because…well he just was. Granted, this may have been part of the overall story, as the player is meant to play through the game learning about Evie’s back story and her life leading up to the Bakers’ household.

There were also debates surrounding the latest Tomb Raider game. Lara Croft is probably the most famous female video game hero, who handles guns better than Nathan Drake and can scale mountains and jungle terrain better than Ezio scales Italy. Yet in the latest game, released in 2013, there were issues surrounding her conflated character: She was built up to be against killing, yet in many circumstances she was shooting to kill. While there has been discussion as to the reality of this (you can play through the game with very little combat being encountered, as well as it being a story of survival for Lara) it raise the question as to why the developers didn’t do a Batman on it: In Arkham Asylum, Batman simply knocks the enemies unconscious rather than outright killing them. Perhaps Lara could have only shot people to disarm, rather than to kill? She may not be OK with killing, but seriously maiming is still an option.

Why do they not have clothes on???

All of the above issues aside, one thing I can never understand about females in video games is their very distinct lack of clothing! Women in video games always seem to be wearing very little: Lara Croft seems happy to traverse jungles in nothing but hot pants and a vest, while many of the ladies in Overwatch or Mortal Kombat just seem to wear lycra and some form of floaty cape. If any of you have ever tried to cosplay or fancy dress as your favourite video game character, you will have found that you are either wearing far too much clothing (Hello Mei!) or far, FAR too little (looking at you now Jade…). It seems that video game developers haven’t been able to bridge this gap between too much and too little: Women appear to be designed solely on their initial appearance and this is what we are to find attractive about them. Mei is adorable, in her super fluffy suit and quirky little glasses, whereas Jade is nothing but legs and boobs in a Princess Leia bikini who also happens to be a blood thirsty killer who can rip your head from your shoulders while you are impaled upon her metal staff. Am I the only one who would like to see a woman kicking butt in jeans and a hoodie?

Image result for mortal kombat jade gif

Jade from the Mortal Kombat Series (sans any actual clothing)

Final Thoughts

In the current society, it feels as though video game developers are too slow on the uptake: Yes there have been some seriously bad-ass women (Michonne in The Walking Dead, Ellie in The Last of Us) but for most of the big blockbuster films the women are nothing more than prized eye-candy or in need or rescuing from whatever evil ails them. Maybe once it would be nice to see the woman save the boy, or…dare I say it…save herself.

Image result for mei overwatch gif

Mei from Overwatch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jump Scares as a selling feature

A jump scare is a technique often used in horror films and video games, intended to scare the audience by surprising them with an abrupt change in image or event, usually co-occurring with a loud, frightening sound.

When it comes to horror, there is nothing scarier than a surprise. Films have been using these for decades and in recent years horror games have become centred around this. But does that necessarily make them scary?

The hugely anticipated Resident Evil 7 game was finally released in mid-January and the overall consensus states that it is amazing. The game is true to the original style of Resident Evil games while still creating a story that not only fits into the overall Resident Evil universe but also capable of being a stand alone adventure. Rife with gruesome and horrific images, this first person action horror game is littered with well timed jump scares. In this game, the jump-scares help to add to the overall mood of the game by being logical in their usage: The main villains of the game appear suddenly, for either a brief flicker or to provide useful information to aid in story progression, and help to create the mood in which the player is almost always on edge while playing. But Resident Evil has always used this tactic to make their games feel scary…with one well timed jump-scare the player is kept on edge throughout the rest of the game, which in turn continues the feeling of anticipated horror and unease within the player. 

Another game franchise that has utilised the jump-scare is the Five Nights At Freddy’s series. In this, you play as a defenceless night watchmen who has to watch CCTV monitors to keep an eye on the murderous animations that are trying to reach your office and kill you. These jump-scares are more a signal of death, as they usually only appear when the animatronic in question has gotten close enough to you to attack. This game is fun…it is a fun game to play purely to see people’s reactions while they play the game. However I wouldn’t say that this game is ‘scary’ but rather ‘jumpy’…which is exactly what the game is supposed to make you do.

Due to this, jump scares need to be used sparingly in order to be considered  ‘horror’ technique, as too many of them makes the game predictable and, eventually, funny. When used in a sparing nature, the jump scare can be used to cement an ambience of the game: In the promo game released for a new (but now cancelled) Silent Hill game, PT, the main threat was a randomly generated half dead woman who could jump out and kill your character at any time. Throughout the game you see small sights of her but nothing that can actually harm you. By allowing her to only attack you once during game play, the player is put into a sense of unease throughout game play and, as a result, are constantly on edge. This was part of the thrill of PT and why it was such a sought after game to play.

In short, jump scares are never fun. No matter what happens, you’re going to get a shock. However when used effectively they can be a valuable tool in creating a gaming experience.

Cosplay or copycat?

We have seen from some of the previous blogs that copyright law steps in when there has been blatant copying of one game in creating another game, but what about taking the characters themselves out of the game and into the real world?

Cosplay is the practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book, or video game, and is usually focused on those characters from the Japanese genres of manga or anime. it is a common practice at many comicons that the vast majority of those attending take the opportunity to dress up as their favorite characters, with many conventions now holding competitions for the best look-a-likes.

Image result for cosplay

A couple cosplaying as Wonder Woman and Batman. Other examples can be seen here

But if you were to dress up as your favorite character, this is not necessarily a cheap feat. If you are really going to do the character justice you need a lot of supplies: clothing, make-up, wigs, weapons, accessories, footwear, extra padding, armour details…the list can go on and on especially if you are trying to recreate a character from comics or video games. Now in the wonderful digital age in which we live, the internet has made all of the above easily accessible. The main question however will be whether or not you can afford to buy it all: If we decided to stick it out with our Dark Knight above, this could set a person back around £250. You’ll look awesome, but probably won’t be able to afford any other clothing for the foreseeable future.

So why not make your own?

I’ll admit it right now: I love a bit of dressing up. Any chance to wear fancy dress and quite frankly I’m sold. However, I am also really, really, really tight-fisted when it comes to my money and so could never justify to myself spending a lot of money on an outfit I’ll most likely only wear once (twice if i’m really lucky!). Creating your own costume is easier and usually cheaper than buying one ready made, especially if you are dressing up for a bit of fun at a convention or as a party troupe. However some of these cosplay competitions are a big deal for those who compete: While cash prizes are rare, the opportunity to win trophies, photography sessions and even meet-and-greet passes with the convention guests, are all big prizes to those fans who compete. In order to win once in a lifetime opportunities such as those awarded at these competitions, your costume must be on point: My Wonder Woman t-shirt, blue skirt and silver bangles will not be enough.

But does making your own count as copyright infringement? In short, no. If you are creating a costume purely for your own enjoyment then it would most likely not be covered by copyright infringement, as you are not causing any financial risk to the original owners. I could take this time to try and explain the implications of design rights within the fashion industry but that would be an entirely new blog post!

What if you made one for a friend?

Now this is where things could potentially be a problem. If you enjoy making the costumes, you may have a friend who asks you to create a costume for them of a particular character as the entire feat is too complicated for them. Based on the financial risk to the original owners, whether this could be copyright infringement rests heavily on whether or not they pay you for the work, and, almost more weighty, is whether this becomes a business for you. If your friend offers to pay you for the materials and time to make the costume, then it could be seen that you are taking money away from the original owner of the character and the costume. While this is extreme, it could become a more pressing issue if you were to do this for lots of friends…so much so that you would say that it is your work and it clearly had a commercial gain to it all.

Final verdict?

When it is clear that your hobby has now become a commercial enterprise, it is probably best to seek a license to use the image from the original owner (such as DC, Marvel or Square Enix for example) in order to protect yourself from a very nasty infringement claim being brought against you. While this may seem like a bit of an effort, it is best to cover your back rather than risk bankrupting yourself over something as minor as a winged cape.

Other than that, craft to your heart’s content my fellow geeks! I shall see you at a convention near you.

T xx

 

Gotta Condemn them all!

Just like every other twenty-something, I spent the majority of my spare time last year wondering around my neighborhood trying to catch Pokemon on my phone thanks to the creation of Pokemon Go!. I grew up playing these games and this mobile game allowed me a chance to achieve a dream that I have had since I was 8: To become a Pokemon master! However as I grew up, I noticed that some people had problems with Pokemon, claiming that it promoted and glorified animal cruelty to children.

Pokemon vs PETA

In 2012 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a satirical version of Pokémon titled ‘Pokémon Black and Blue’, an online game where you rescue Pokemon from real life animal abuse situations. PETA have been known for their shock tactics when it comes to animal rights, from campaigning against cosmetic testing on animals to using fur in the fashion industry. PETA have stated for some time that Pokemon, while they accept it is fictitious, creates a rosy pictures of things that are actually abusive. They have stated that confining Pokemon to their Pokeballs mirrors the housing of animals in factory farms, and the use of Pokemon to fight each other mirrors the animals used in fighting arenas for money. While this may seem a stretch to some, there are some similarities and it can be easy to see why PETA feel the way they do about Pokemon.

It is clear that the creation of the satirical Pokemon games is an infringement on Nintendo’s copyright. Yet why are PETA doing it? Copyright infringement is a crime because of the risk that the infringed work could have negative effects on the original brand itself: A cheap rip-off has none of the insurance or the quality of the original and for members of the pubic who can not tell the difference this can be highly problematic. Yet with PETA, this is exactly what they wish to do to Nintendo. It could be argued that PETA want to associate the Ninetendo company with games that glorify and promote animal cruelty in hopes that this will deter people away from the brand entirely. But does a company as large and successful as Nintendo really care?

Image result for pokemon handshake gifs

Chikorita vs Charizard….The new David and Goliath?

However, the release of the newest Pokemon game installment, Pokemon Sun and Moon, actually addresses PETA’s concerns in a subtle but effective manner. During the newest game, you are accompanied for some of the main story line by a young girl named Lillie, who states on numerous occasions that she does not wish to fight Pokemon as she doesn’t want to see them getting hurt. There is also evidence of different professions within the Pokemon world, with some scientists stating that they wish to only encounter Pokemon in order to record their discovery, and also other NPC (non playable characters) who state that they want to become a Pokemon Carer rather than a Pokemon Trainer. it would appear that Nintendo are taking heed of PETA’s campaigns and are trying to create a game that allows the player a choice of how they interact with the Pokemon rather than simply being about Trainer progression. This could be seen as an effective new step against copyright infringement, as it shows the original brand acknowledging the infringed work and, to some extent, even taking on board some of their ideas and concerns in order to produce a product that will now appeal to a wider audience than the original one did. In this sense, it is practically free labor, as the developers have had to do very little research to find out what issues the general public have with their game. It may not be much, but it is a step in the right direction for Nintendo to try and get PETA to leave them alone.

Should the law step in?

When it comes to Pokemon it would appear that a line needs to be carefully drawn: While there is no evidence to suggest that Pokemon players actually commit acts of animal cruelty, the generic theme of the game does very clearly promote using ‘animals’ as ‘weapons’. On the other hand, it could be seen as condescending to assume that players are simply going to repeat actions in a game simply because the game allows for it in the story. This issue can be linked closely to the issue discussed in the previous blog post, ‘Video game censorship’. It would appear therefore that the law should only step in with the companies involved raise the issue in a legal setting: mediation could be the future for copyright infringement of video games, as a middle ground can be agreed between the two parties.

Image result for pokemon handshake gifs

Pikachu and Eevee…they know how to reach an understanding

T xx