Three things that really scare me

A post about scary things on Halloween? Oh my, I must be some creative prodigy!

Anyway, it’s the season to be scared, and what better way to celebrate this holiday (which is not really celebrated over here in Europe, though it has its origin here. Go figure) than by telling you what scares the ever-living crap out of me. This way, you know how to create the perfect device to give me a heart attack. Ready for that shopping list? Here it comes!

Number 3: that eerie sound from The Grudge
I have to be honest here: I didn’t find both the English and the Japanese version of The Grudge that scary. Granted, they both gave me goosebumps and caused some sleepless nights, but they weren’t that great. So what was it then that caused me to wake up in the middle of the night, with a feeling somebody was watching me? That freaky, freaky sound from the movie. Seriously, something about that cracking sound just freaks me out. Trust me, simply looking up the YouTube video containing this fear-invoking tone had me almost crying.

Number 2: Sadako/Samara from The Ring
Yes, I am fascinated by the Japanese horror movie genre. After seeing the American version first and being scared by Samara, I thought that the Japanese version couldn’t be that much more scarring. Well, was I wrong! Though some scenes are just weird, the Japanese version feels much more intimidating and creepy than its Western remake. What did it for me was Sadako, who is just superior to her American counterpart. Her appearances are more sudden, her longer hair somewhat more disturbing and her Asian eyes would certainly turn me into a corpse.

Number 1: Silence
You know what’s the number one thing I love about Japanese horror? The silence. Well, I love it for the creepiness it generates. You see, Western horror movies actually tell you when to raise your hands and hide underneath your blanket: the music gets creepy, slowly preparing you for the imminent scare. Japanese horror movies don’t do that. They don’t give you a single clue. They are just like: “Oh look, it’s a normal day in a normal Tokyo suburb and you are jusHOLYCRAPALOTWHATTHEHELLISTHATCORPSEDOINGINFRONTOFMYWINDOW?!” Especially when you’re used to our Western ways, this approach will get you every time. This is why the number one thing that scares me is silence: you just don’t know what will happen. It also explains why I start talking nonsense when I’m nervous, filling the oppressive silence with gibberish. A sound is always better than no sound, especially when you know some videotape ghost is out to get you in less than a week.

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Sam and Sam Play Antichamber, Parts 1 and 2

Today we’re trying something a little different – Action/puzzle masterpiece ‘Antichamber’. Knowing the name, however, doesn’t give us many clues about what… is… going… on….?

The adventure continues as we uncover more rooms, but nothing is quite as it seems…

Sometimes Being A Cheap Gamer Is Hard, Especially When You Have Games Like Pokemon X/Y

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I’ve always prided myself in being one of those gamers who doesn’t buy every single, most anticipated released game on midnight launch or pre-order. I’m not putting down anyone who does buy a game soon after it’s released. Not at all. I’ve spent a huge portion of my life having to budget my money pretty tightly because I didn’t always have a large reserve of it. And when I finally did have enough money to get what I wanted to buy, I always had to make a choice between the one thing I really wanted over the other thing I wanted just as much.

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Do role-playing games alter our perception of reality?

 

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According to a scientific study (these scientists love performing studies), spending time as a virtual character in a role-playing game can “numb you to realizing important body signals in real life.” This supposedly includes a change in a person’s response to physical pain as video games somehow manage to desensitize a person’s perception of pain not only in themselves, but in others as well.

“Participants were asked how much time they spend each week playing video games. Their responses were then correlated with a measure of pain tolerance by counting the number of paperclips that they could retrieve from ice-cold water. In a second experiment, participants played either an immersive or a nonimmersive computer game before taking part in the same pain-resistance task.

“The immersive video-game players exhibited a reduced sensitivity to pain and removed significantly more paperclips from ice-cold water. They were also more indifferent to people depicted as experiencing displeasure than were the nonimmersive players.”

This reaction is apparently caused because the “human-machine boundary is increasingly being blurred, either by humans entering virtual machines/robots, or by anthropomorphizing, in other words adding human qualities to animated figures and toys. Machines are being programmed to attract human inclinations, while virtual characters and robots have started to perform tasks or roles that were traditionally held by humans, such as that of robot counselling therapists. In such an environment it becomes increasingly easy and normal to regard artificial beings as akin to human beings.”

I can’t be the only one that believes the absolute opposite. RPGs — my favorite games like Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Final Fantasy– all of them have only introduced more emotion to my life. If anything, compelling stories, consequences, and immersive characters have only made me more sensitive to the beauty and tragedy of life. These games have tested my morals and patience, my ability to choose between ruthlessness or mercy. If anything, these games have only introduced an intense depth of emotional understanding.

Ulrich Weger of the University of Witten/Herdeck in Germany stated, “We see this blurring as a reality of our time but also as a confused and misleading development that has begun to shape society. We believe this should be balanced by other developments, for example, by working on our awareness of what it really means to be human. We should also look into how we can best make use of the beneficial applications of robotic or artificial intelligence advances, so as to be able to use our freed up resources and individual potentials wisely rather than becoming enslaved by those advances.”

Perhaps it’s because I’m extremely passionate about the emotional capabilities of gaming, but I only see ignorance inside studies such as this. Besides… I’ve put in countless of hours into RPGs. Physical pain still hurts like a bitch!

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The Night Warriors

It’s that time of year once more; when the barrier between the natural and supernatural is at its weakest and little ghouls haunt the streets in search of sugary treats.  For this week’s video game comic column, it only makes sense to venture into the darker side of the printed page.  There is a rather massive subgenre of horror comics, and its tentacles stretch far into the video game world.  So let’s dive into a realm where monsters do battle in rounds of two, until only the strongest survives.

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Darkstalkers2It was back in November of 2004 that Udon Entertainment debuted their Darkstalkers comic series.  At this time, Udon was releasing their work through Devil’s Due Publishing, which included a Street Fighter comic series that launched in 2003 (which we will definitely discuss in a later post).  The Darkstalkers comic ran for six issues, until it abruptly stopped in April of 2005.  In October of the same year, the chief of operations Eric Ko, announced that Udon had become a full-fledged publisher and its lengthy hiatus was due to producing material for the video game Capcom Fighting Evolution.  Since that time, Udon has grown into a massive comic book and video game powerhouse, producing several comic series, art books, and work for video games such as Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix and New International Track and Field.

For the Darkstalkers comic, Udon had plenty of interesting characters and settings from which to source fresh story material.  This is especially true, since most fighting games have very few details outside of “some people got together to fight in an arbitrary battle tournament held by a mysterious benefactor.”  For example, this story comes straight from the Darkstalkers instruction manual:

“When the sun sets and humanity retreats to the imagined safety of their beds, a mysterious entity appears in the sky to assemble the wicked and the evil. The unimaginable secret power of the dark is unleashed! Ten supernatural beings of destruction have materialized to wage their eternal war for the domination of the night. The Vampire, the Mummy, Frankenstein, Bigfoot. . . their very names conjure fear. But who or what has summoned them? These creatures of myth and legend, the Darkstalkers, have gathered for what is destined to be the greatest battle ever. And the fate of all humanity rests on who wins the epic struggle. The Darkstalkers are coming. . .tonight!”

Darkstalkers3From this rather bare bones plot, Udon crafted a solid story about the various machinations of the Darkstalkers who hide in the dark corners of the Earth.  In this six issue series, the conflicts between certain characters take center stage, while the sideline characters are left as mere window dressing.  So while Dimitri and Morrigan prepare for an eventual battle of the ages, Rikuo and Lord Raptor only show up briefly in side stories and single panel shots.  Every issue features plenty of great fighting scenes, complete with signature moves and plenty of nods to the fans of the video games.  There is also loads of background on many of the major characters, including several side stories that flesh out their motivations even further.

Darkstalkers4As with most of the comics from Udon Entertainment, the artwork really shines.  The horror themes of the video games allowed the artists to include plenty of heavy contrast and shadows, which really lend to the atmosphere of the comics.  The characters remain in the anime-inspired style of the fighting games, but with more vibrant colors and further detail for better expressions.  In spite of the show-stealing appeal of the characters, the backgrounds have not been overlooked.  There is plenty of detail in the settings of each scene, with some panels exclusively dedicated to moody environmental shots.

Darkstalkers5Besides the solid story work and gorgeous art, my favorite part of Darkstalkers comes at the end of each issue.  A single page is always dedicated to a gag comic called Darkstalkers Mini.  The fun work of Corey Lewis (pseudonym, Rey), these quick strips feature super-deformed versions of the fighters in silly situations, most of which end with goofy punch-lines.  Unfortunately, when Udon collected the comics into a trade paperback, all of these side stories got the boot.  On the plus side, that has made the individual issues of the comic unique to the trade version, so be sure to track these gems down!

At the end of the first issue of Darkstalkers (right before the Mini comic), there is a writers’ commentary aptly titled, “From the Darkside.”  On this page, some of the staff from Udon spill their guts about the joy they felt in creating the Darkstalkers comic books.  There is talk of the great chance to write a darker story than the usual Street Fighter comics, along with their mutual love of horror films and fighting games.  At the very end, the colorist, Gary Yeung, says that the goal at Udon was to “make a faithful interpretation of Darkstalkers from a game/animation into a book.”  Through action-packed stories and striking artwork, all wrapped up in a spooky atmosphere, it seems like Udon met their goal quite nicely.

A Week in Gaming – The Wolf Among Us: Episode One

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This past week I got around to purchasing the season pass for Telltale Games’ newest series The Wolf Among Us. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect when I started playing. I mean, I played through Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead series so I was familiar with the style and all that but was otherwise clueless as far as general content and narrative goes. For some reason I like to know as little as possible when going into most games. I like to see the initial concept, watch the announcement trailer and some view some of the art for the game but I really like to remain a bit in the dark so that I can form my own opinions of the game at hand without outside influence. The only exception is when I don’t know anything about the game and am not sure if I even want it. Before I get too off-topic, let’s get into the point of this post – my initial impressions of the game.

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The Wolf Among Us is based of DC comic book series called Fables, a series which I haven’t read yet (emphasis on yet). The game takes place 20 years before the first comic book in the Fables series but obviously follows the same basic premise – The fables we know and love such as Snow White and Ichabod Crane have been forced to leave their homeland and live in ours. Thanks to some magical stuff called Galmour certain fables such as Mr. Toad can hide in plain sight without the humans noticing anything suspicious, allowing the fables to live in the depths of New York City in relative peace. If they stop taking Glamour they revert back to their natural form which has been made illegal. I suppose that is understandable though, it would be odd to walk down the streets of New York City and see a 4-foot-tall talking toad. These fables all have to work together since they are kind of an inclusive club and are the only ones who know about one another, but obviously it doesn’t always work out and that’s where Bigby Wolf (or more mythically known as the Big Bad Wolf) comes in. Bigby is the Sheriff of Fabletown and is tasked with the job of keeping everyone from killing one another. It seems like a hard job, to be honest.

The gameplay is a lot like that of Telltale’s The Walking Dead in that it features small sections of exploration, large dialog sequences and lots of quick-time events. One new feature though is the addition of more action-oriented gameplay. I was super surprised to find myself actually dodging attacks and throwing some punches myself. That being said, it’s obvious that The Wolf Among Us has a much darker spin on it than The Walking Dead did. There are some seriously sinister themes as well as an overabundance of cursing and blood. There were many choices to make in conversation which shaped the story, one of the most ingenious parts of any Telltale game series in my opinion. There are plenty of ways in which your choices shape the narrative and I honestly plan on playing through it a couple of times to see some things play out differently. The experience overall though was a big departure from The Walking Dead, which I really do want to emphasis. It’s not just like playing the same game with different characters, it’s a whole new and wonderful experience.

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I know that some people are choosing to wait until all five episodes are out to start playing, but this is too good to pass up. I recommend all of you who have yet to play this to get on that immediately. The season pass is $20 and includes all planned episodes or you can buy them all separately for $5 a pop. The Wolf Among Us – Episode One “Faith” is out now on Steam, the PS3, and Xbox 360. It will soon be out on the Vita though along with The Walking Dead, which is really neat for you handheld lovers. It’s great stuff, I’m telling you!

The Only and Most Terrifying Movie for Halloween

After finishing my post from last week, I got it stuck in my head that I should maybe follow up with some sort of post about scary movies. But as I called my own bluff in that post by claiming that I’m not much of a horror movies aficionado, well…that was a dumb thing to do. But the reality is that I’m not, so I don’t even know what I’m complaining about. And even if I had tried to do a post about scary movies, I’d really only have to talk about one. The f***ing scariest movie I’ve ever seen:

ARACHNOPHOBIA 

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(P. S. There are spider images ahead, which I can’t even believe I included. Oh, the nightmares I’ll be having…)

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