My Dirty Little Secret and the Games that We Play

So a dirty little secret I’ve decided to share: I watched “The Biggest Loser” this season. I have dinner with my sister, Kristin, every Tuesday, and either she cooks, or I grab some food, and we get together, and we’d watch the show, waiting for the other shows which we like to come on… and while I wouldn’t call it a great show, nor do I particularly miss it now that it is done, it was entertaining. Let me be clear about a few things: As a rule, as I’ve explained before, I do not like reality television. The main reason is that it seems to celebrate and focus on all that is wrong and bad about humanity: Lying, cheating, stealing, and overall jackassedness and bitchiness. In this sense, this season of Biggest Loser is to be commended. It celebrated something good.. something positive: Very fat, unhealthy people losing lots of weight and learning how to live healthier lives… and as the show went on, there grew from the contestants themselves this celebration and uplifting of things that are great about humanity: Friendship, loyalty, compassion… you know.. “love”. These people lost a LOT of weight, and they all seemed, by the end, to really care about each other. It’s one of those cliche` things where at the end, they were [almost] all winners. (I say “almost” cause one girl got kicked off early, and didn’t really seem to have lost any weight… but the others.. wow) Anyway, I still had my gripes.. a final show with 15 minutes worth of actual content shouldn’t take 2 hours.. but whatever. I enjoyed watching it. I have no real desire to watch a new season of it, but who knows… it could happen.

Kristin and I also get a kick out of downing large orders of fries and Pepsi’s while watching fatties struggle to avoid eating half a brownie. We’re bad people.

Tuuk let me borrow the game Ico a little while back, and I played through it.. and it was, in a word, Fantastarificoolational. You play a boy with horns who is dropped off in a giant castle. [It’s either a castle or a giant mansion or something, but I’m just gonna keep calling it a castle.] You soon meet a strange girl, and you must lead her throughout the castle, solving puzzles and occasionally fighting off very creepy black ghost looking dudes. (Imagine what you think real life demons would look like.. not the cartoon red guys with horns, but black smoke in almost man-like form.. Some had wings. Very creepy) Anyway, if they got the girl, all was lost, and you die. Imagine a 3D Zelda game (Ocarina, Majora’s Mask, or Windwaker) that was nothing but 1 big dungeon, and the fighting was relatively minor. It’s just all puzzles. The things that really made this game great were:

  • Puzzles: The puzzles themselves were complex, but not aggravating (well.. one was aggravating, until I finally realized that a basic understanding of physics would be of benefit to me [in short: If I run into a tall item with a narrow base, it just may fall over]) You could usually deduce what you were supposed to do by looking around you, and seeing what was available. They also built on top of each other in a way that made you kinda excited to see what more you could do with a given room.
  • Environment: The game does a good job of making itself “real”. Items in the world actually exist, and aren’t just decoration. E.g. if there’s an item on the ground, you can probably interact with it somehow. If there’s a room you can see through the window, then that room really exists. Here’s a good example: There were some stones in an open field that I moved around. A few hours later I could see that field from a long ways away.. way off in the distance I could still see those stones where I had left them. That, to me, is kewl.
  • Music: The music in this game is great. Not overpowering, but light, and sets the stage perfectly for the atmosphere of the game. There’s elements of that creepiness and uncertainty that just suits the game so well. Listening to the music now, having already played the game, I realize just how good it was. While playing, I rarely noticed it consciously, but it just set the mood of each setting perfectly.
  • Scale: The castle itself is large. Quite large. What makes this really stand out is that you are often given a chance to see just how large it is while traveling around it. You are given these fantastic views of areas you’ve traveled through and areas you are headed to.. and they seem to stretch on forever. And what’s so great about it (as I’ve already said) is that it’s not just some background, but the actual building, with all the details and all the changes you’ve made to it, etc. I’d occasionally stop and look around just for fun.. much like I used to do with Ocarina of Time back in the day. It did a great job of making the game seem “real”.
  • Story: The story is great. I won’t spoil it, because that’s one of the great parts of the game: You’re constantly hoping for more information about what’s going on. To start the game all you know is that you are a boy with horns who has been dropped off at this castle. And you’re pretty sure that’s bad, I guess. That’s all you know. You get bits and pieces as you go. I can think of very few other games where I was excited to have another cut-scene to watch.

That said, I very much look forward to the next game by these dudes:Shadow of the Colossus. I watched Tuuk play it, and.. wow. Imagine a Zelda game where all you do is fight the bosses. Now imagine those bosses are the size of a skyscraper…

I also recently played, and beat, Futurama the video game for PS2. While by no means an equal to Ico in terms of depth and scale, being a very big Futurama fan made this game especially fun for me. The game is set up pretty much like an episode of the show that you get to play. The show was famous for it’s many “nerdy” and “sci-fi-ee” jokes and references, and this game was no different. (e.g. “You know what that means? *Gasp! I’m a playable character!?” and [after killing an enemy] Bender: Ha! He won’t be going home to his kids.”) The game has its share of rather funny cut scenes, and is predominantly a 3rd person 3d platformer that puts you in control of Fry, Bender, and Leela. Special levels allow you to control a giant Chicken-Walker (that is, wait for it, shaped like a chicken) or control Dr. Zoidberg riding a fat horselike creature (“Hurray! I’m making a cameo!”). Throughout the levels there are many enemies to gun down or kick/punch, and a number of puzzles (mostly of the “how do I get to the next room” variety). There were some frustrating camera problems, but all in all, it was really entertaining to play, and would have made a fantastic Futurama episode or Movie had it been chosen for such things. If you’re a fan of Futurama, I’d highly recommend giving it a whirl. It’s kinda short, so you shouldn’t have much trouble beating it in a weekend, I’d think.

I was going to write about how it’s been a year since my knee surgery, and that I had my final checkup with the doctor on Wednesday, so that chapter is over.. but then I forgot about the appointment and totally missed it, so that’ll have to wait, I guess.

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