Tranquility in the Wasteland: The Sobering Impact of Mad Max‘s Photo Mode

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This piece was originally written for Haywire Magazine, go check them out!

For me, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, Mad Max was not a thinking game. At least, not at first: what I wanted most from Avalanche Studios’ 2015 open-world action title was a pretty pastime with dopamine-inducing resource collecting and vehicular combat. Mad Max‘s solid gameplay loop of driving, bashing, punching, searching, gathering, and upgrading meant the violence easily lulled me into a flow state, but instead of stacking tetrominos I was attaching a monstrous bullbar to increase my car’s attack stat. 

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The Triumphs and Failures of God of War

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Kratos is a Spartan warrior turned god who’s fled the Greek Isles after enacting a destructive revenge quest. Seeking refuge in the Nordic tundra, he falls for Faye, a woman with a hidden origin, and fathers a boy named Atreus in a secluded cabin. Kratos barks orders at him, but not much else, and the pair are forced into reckoning their distant relationship when Faye dies. The story opens with Kratos assembling a funeral pyre, from which he bags and attaches Faye’s ashes to his belt. Father and son set out to complete Faye’s final request, to be scattered from the highest peak in all the realms. Not long into the journey, however, Kratos finds he’s merely traded one adversarial pantheon for another, and their ritualistic journey is caught in the crossfire between wrathful figures of Norse mythology.

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Some Games I Played in 2018

December has always been a reflective month for me. In the opening third, I turned another year older. Twenty-seven. Then the new year approaches. Twenty-nine-teen.

Twenty-eight-teen was a strange one. I became really sad, but then got a little better. I learned a lot about myself. I changed careers. I wrote some things, read some things, and played some things too.

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Florence

With bellies full of french toast and coffee, Stephanie and I opted to lounge away the hours until Thanksgiving dinner with a mobile game called Florence. It’s a series of bright, colorful vignettes about finding, exploring, and re-defining love. Playing Florence is like eating a bag of Skittles, with each panel a sudden burst of an ambiguously colorful flavor. Green apple meet cute. Strawberry move-in day. Citrus growth in opposite directions. Lemon move-out day.

It’s a lovely and genuine experience about the work that goes into relationships. We discussed out loud the minutia of unpacking. Will he ever use that cricket bat? Well, the stuffed elephant has to have the top shelf. He needs space for his record collection. This made the reverse that much more bittersweet, stuffing away the objects we so lovingly placed.

Florence will only take an hour of your time, if that, and costs less than a latte. It’s available on iOS and Android. Check it out!

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Finding Hope in The Dark Room: How Life Is Strange Helped Expose My Depression and Offer a Path to Recovery

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This piece was originally published on Into the Spine. Check them out!

Content warning: depression, suicide, anxiety

I played Life Is Strange when I was at my most vulnerable. I was stuck in The Dark Room, the twisted subterranean photography studio in Dontnod’s 2015 episodic adventure game. Like Max Caulfield, the thoughtful protagonist, my life choices, insecurities, and fears were laid out in scrambled polaroids and I was forced to confront them. The camera was turned on me, the lone subject of a self-portrait, and I felt ugly.

I was powerless and deep underground. I felt a storm approaching, one that would destroy everything I loved, and I couldn’t escape. If by some miracle I resurfaced, I started doubting if anyone would even listen. My spirit was in heavy fragments and I would need to carry the weight or let it crush me.

Life Is Strange brought introspective thinking that I wasn’t expecting but desperately needed. Through playing the story, stepping alongside Max and feeling her choices, I was able to externalize struggles I previously only experienced internally. I could crystallize what I needed to carry on.

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