Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Devil Survivor 2's dramatic irony and stuff

After much strategizing and frustration I finally beat Devil Survivor 2 (DS2), the tactical JRPG for the DS. At first I was really impressed with the unrelenting difficulty that forced me to actually look at my battle and demon possibilities. I got to know the system better, but by the end I just wanted to be done. I was hoping to have some kind of awesome idea for an article while I played the game, and I took notes. However, no coherent theme emerged. So I'm writing you my thoughts on: 1) DS2's self-consciousness as J-horror, 2) DS2's reflection of Japanese ideals in endings and 3) the coolest in-game explanation for a new game+ I've ever seen (the last two parts will have spoilers).
w-why are all these ladies so busty
DS2 is trying really hard to think about how teenagers would TRULY react in a disaster situation. There are fights about who should get supplies. You friends frequently compare their situation to that of a horror movie: "If this was a monster movie it'd be a dumb cliche to go for landmarks like that" (Joe). Keita, speaking of communist idealism, says, "'comerade,' what fantasy are you living in?" Well Keita, this fantasy I'm living in is one where we're real people and completely aware of the absurdity of our situation as teenagers saving the world by summoning demons through our cell phones (fun side note: instead of killing dissenters, you take away their cell phones. It's basically the same!)!

I haven't played through all the endings, but one of the "happy" endings is when you join neither of your warring extremist friends and opt for a compromise position (trying to keep things the way they were). Daichi's philosophy is, "But even peons have a right to choose! Not to be bossed around like pawns on a chessboard!" The irony, of course, is that Daichi is a pawn on the player's chessboard, and he really has no say in what his battle actions are (besides his inherent stats).

 You have the option to defeat "the world's administrator" too. I'm interested in how so many Japanese games see the person in charge as malicious... well, malicious is too harsh. Many Japanese games have a deity that is kind of apathetic about humans, but annoyed that they are trying to have a say in things.

DS2 goes out of its way to make up some lore to explain save games and new game+s. It sees demons and the characters as part of an akashic record (yeah I had to look it up too, but I was pleased that it referred to a real thing). An akashic record is this idea that everything is data that can be deleted or edited (that is how the game explained it). Looking at the wikipedia page, everything being recorded is also a big part of it. What's weird to me is that with keyloggers and cloud storage etc. our digital lives can be basically an Akashic record (am I misunderstanding the concept?). It's like... technology can make this religious idea a reality. STRANGE THINGS.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The attractiveness of portable systems; the inscrutability of game addictions; the stupidity of trophies

I love portable gaming. There are at least two reasons for my preference: 1) It's easier for me to immerse myself in a screen that I'm holding and 2) I feel less anxiety about people watching me and judging my performance or the fact that I'm playing a video game.

I said it was immersion that made me prefer small screens, but I think it's also convenience and immediacy. I find it difficult to set aside time to play my PS3 games, but I usually bring along my phone/Vita/DS if I'm going somewhere. And if I'm waiting in line, I think playing a Kairosoft game is a perfectly good way to wait. And if there's a handiman or carpet cleaner around, I don't really want them to watch me suck at some game that is stereotypically for teenage guys anyway. Portable systems are much lower profile and it just seems in better taste to play something in my hands when other people are doing other things around me.

I wonder if the type of games for portable systems is significantly different than for console or PC games. I like playing adventure games, puzzle platformers, and strategy games, and I prefer them to look cute (as opposed to grisly or hardcore). It's possible that none of my PS3 games are cute enough (one can only play so much Katamari and Little Big Planet), and that portable systems are more likely to cater to my cuteness attraction. I'm mystified about why some games can hold my attention for weeks at a time and then I suddenly stop playing them, and why other games are only interesting for a demo's length of time. Am I just becoming so jaded with games that killing another guy in Assassin's Creed seems like a futile exercise, only to be repeated again?

I wonder if mood has something to do with game taste as well. Some days grinding feels like a relief, while other days I just want to get a move on with stories. I'm interested in how games succeed and fail in psychological reinforcement, and I want to understand what motivates me. I like playing games to see what they are--for the novelty of the act. But after the novelty wears off, sometimes I feel too lazy to keep playing. I think, "okay, I understand that this is going to get harder or go on for five more missions, but will it be worth it?"

I love and hate the trophies system. I love it because I think it's fun to try to do crazy things in games and to encourage experimentation, but I hate it because I feel really dumb when I have 0% of trophies for a game (like the ones I try out and don't really like, like inFamous). I believe I have the ability to finish these games, and I do not have the desire. Maybe I'm just getting old and I'm getting pickier about how I use my time, but beating a game to add to my "gamer cred" seems so stupid! Yet I'm strangely attracted to cultivating a levelled "gamer" trophy persona. I wish I had the dedication to be completest with trophies, but in some games it's just not fun.