Ask the Chick (Issue #2)

It’s the eve of the first #DiscoverIndies Friday. No biggie, just the culmination of my entire Indie Gamer Chick career. I’ve puked roughly seven times today.

So let’s get to the questions.

Any Kingdom Hearts game. The second one especially was so top-heavy in its own mythology and the first game ended in a cliffhanger, so I was kind of stunned that the sequel had closure. Yet, having played through most games in the series, I still can’t fully explain what exactly the goal of the Heartless was. It’s just nonsensical tripe. But the gameplay is fun and Sora is relatable.

Indie games? Limbo’s ending left me shaking my head wondering how so many people read so much into it when it’s kept so deliberately abstract. I liked playing Limbo, and that sequence with the spider is a first-ballot candidate in the Opening Level Hall of Fame, but ending left me wondering what the point was.

If you mean linear, story-based games and separate play-sessions (I made 200+ runs through Dead Cells but that was over one month-long binge), I’ve played all the way through Shadow of the Colossus four times. The first play-through was probably an all-time top five games experience for me. It was incredible. Every subsequent time, not so much. The flaws started to stick out more and more. I recently played the PS4 remake and I still think it’s an all-timer, but there’s a lot of questionable decisions and some of the bosses are very underwhelming to the point that they feel more like they were a “we gotta make deadline” inclusions more than being included on merit. There’s two in the game that are barely bigger than the horse, for fuck’s sake.

I don’t replay a ton of games. There’s so many games out there and every single replay is time I’m spending not playing something new to me. I look at my gaming existence as an ongoing quest to play the best game I’ll ever play in my life. I’m 29-years-old, and I hope I haven’t already played that game. But if I keep playing the same games over and over again, it will limit the time I have to find that game. I’ve met people who have proudly told me they play Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VII once a month, EVERY MONTH, and always will because they know 100% for sure they’ll never ever ever ever play a better game. To me, that’s a sign of insecurity. I want to find a game I’ll like more than my favorite game ever, because that game obviously must be spectacular.

The biggest? Yes. The best? I think it gave up that title sometime in 2017. It’s just too damn much work now to sift through new releases. It’s maddening how fast games release on Steam, with no curation. I know people are fans of achievements and Steam cards, but games that exist only to exploit those, have no effort behind them, and only serve to dump 300+ achievements on players in as little time as possible are like a form of cancer that’s rendered shopping on the platform an excruciating experience. PlayStation 4 is just as bad with shit like Emerald Shores or Unknown City. Games that have made some very talented developers who can’t get listing physically ill. Right now, the market I like the most is Xbox One’s. It’s not perfect, but it doesn’t feel like a dumping ground. Every platform needs reform, but Xbox needs it the least.

But, my little birds tell me that reform is coming to Steam and PlayStation 4 in 2019, and talks of making sure Switch doesn’t go too far off the rails are taking place. Wish I could go into details but everything is preliminary right now. This stuff doesn’t happen overnight, everyone.

As far as taking Steam’s spot, a 90%+ market share is tough to crack. I used to be of the belief that you would have to chip away at it one tiny chunk at a time, but obviously I was wrong about that. Every market that’s gone that route has failed. I can admit when I’m wrong, and I was wrong about this. So really. If someone is going to shake up the landscape, they’re probably going to need such a momentous send-off that it immediately takes a 10% or better chunk. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but trust me, that would be unprecedented.

Can it be done?

No, it can’t be. Prove me wrong, competitors. I’m rooting for you.

The Super NES. I have most of the classic mini consoles and tons of compilations of classic games, and the SNES lineup is the best top-to-bottom with the fewest stinkers. Games for the SNES just plain aged better than NES, N64, Genesis, or PlayStation One games. The worst game in the collection, Star Fox 2, was a game so horrible Nintendo shit-canned it twice in two different eras before finally sticking it on the SNES Classic as a tacky promotional gimmick. I’ve been doing this IGC Retro Blitz thing for a month now and the best classic game collection, and it’s not even close really, is the SNES Classic. Just the lineup of it alone could probably get me through the next decade if that’s all I had to play. But if you throw in the rest of the SNES lineup, I’d be able to make it for life.

I look at something like Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes more like a board game than a video game. It’s actually really clever and when I finally put enough time into it for a full review, I can’t imagine it won’t be on the IGC Leaderboard Top 10. I also like what it represents: that making a game doesn’t begin and end with a series of 1s and 0s. That you can take it outside the box and create a simple, coherent, insanely fun title that isn’t limited to just a screen.

Otherwise, it depends on what you mean by “media.” Does Amiibo count? Skylanders? You know who would have been all over that kind of shit once upon a time? Young me. I would absolutely have been someone who pestered their parents for the latest Amiibos or Lego Dimensions sets. I only currently own one Amiibo, and it’s a still-boxed Shovel Knight I got from a friend at Nintendo as a gift. Adult-me just doesn’t have the time to bother with that stuff. I want to just sit down and play games. Young me? My parents would have been screaming at me 24/7 because they’d been stepping on them constantly.

My Dad is one of those older people that wants to be “hip” and “with it” and so when the media would hype the latest game console, in the time before I was around, he’d buy it and play with it for a few hours, and after that it’d only get used if they had guests come over. So when I was born, we actually had things like an NES and an SNES, but I never really got into them. My parents tell me the first game they remember me playing that I turned on and played by myself was Super Mario Kart, but I certainly wasn’t “hooked” by the experience. We had Zombies Ate my Neighbors and I remember playing it while hiding under the blankets. It’s not even a scary game, but five-year-old me probably thought it was.

When I was seven, my parents were shopping and there was a kiosk for PlayStation, and it had Crash Bandicoot. I started playing it, and it became the thing I wanted most for Christmas. That’s what made me truly interested in games. But the game that solidified gaming for me for life was Banjo-Kazooie. I played it on a kiosk again (hey, those things work game companies, you should bring them back!) and I really wanted it. And so on my 9th Birthday, July 11, 1998, my parents got me a Nintendo 64 with Banjo, and on that day I truly became a gamer. From that point onward, that’s all I wanted to do with all my free time.

In late June of 2011, the summer gaming drought was happening. I was browsing my Xbox 360 collection when I came across the game Breath of Death VII, which I had previously purchased. Brian asked me what it was. I told him “it’s an Xbox Live Indie Game. Anyone can make and publish games for Xbox and they go into a separate section of the store.” I hadn’t looked at those games in a long time, so I went to the XBLIG section of the market and there were TONS of games, many of which looked cool. I wanted to know which games were the good ones, but when I went to check reviews, we noticed that basically every site that covered XBLIGs gave every game a recommendation and said almost nothing critical about them.

My family had been pestering me that I needed a hobby, something creative, and suggested I take up blogging. Brian said “that’s it. That’s what you blog about. These Xbox indie games.” I opened Indie Gamer Chick on July 1, 2011, ten days before my 22nd birthday. By August 1, 2011, it was the most read XBLIG site in the world.

The funny part is, I definitely had no right to call myself “Indie Gamer Chick” at the time. I wasn’t an indie enthusiast. I hope in the seven-and-a-half years since, I’ve earned the name.

That anyone read me. When I cleared ten page views on the third day, we couldn’t believe it. But then the XBLIG development community found me and at first they were kind of mortified. I mean, my reviews weren’t very nice, and even with games I liked, I pointed out the flaws in them. Devs weren’t used to that. But, they ultimately embraced me, and I somehow became part of their community. That’s the part that shocked me. I never set out to be a community leader. It wasn’t something in the cards for me. That the community essentially chose me for that role? Humbling beyond belief. I hope I did right by them. I gave them everything I had. I miss them. I miss XBLIG.

Yes. I think we’re way overdue for this. But, after Hot Coffee, which could have been a fantastic chance for the game industry to, at long last, grow the fuck up, I don’t think it’ll happen anytime soon. The biggest issue is getting distribution of course. Someone could try to make a truly adult-only game for a major console, but they’ll certainly get rejected for listing from any of the big three. If they did get approval, the game would almost certainly never get listing in their digital markets and be relegated to physical copies in adult fun-time stores.

The bigger question is “is there even a market for this?” There was a cottage industry of pornography games for the Atari 2600 that were about as erotic as your grandma in the shower, but only one of them sold “well” (50,000 units) and that’s because it became the center of a media storm that made it 10x more desirable to try from a counter-culture point of view. That game involved raping a bound-and-gagged Native American. Something tells me that wouldn’t fly today.

But a well-made game that involves graphic depictions of sex? Something classy? It’s basically impossible to gauge because there’s no precedent for it on consoles. It would be a huge risk to whoever undertook the production of it. I believe there’s no reason to not have thing already be a thing in gaming, but whether it ever will happen? Honestly, I can’t see it because there’s just too many barriers of entry. The big chastity belt of gaming.

Bad controls for platformers for me. I’ve always been of the belief that good controls don’t make a game, but bad controls will absolutely break a game. As for RPGs, ones where grinding isn’t fun. Some people believe that, by definition, grinding has to be a chore. I’ve never believed that. I’ve played plenty of games where the act of grinding up resources can be every bit as fun as opening up the storyline.

About Indie Gamer Chick
Indie game reviews and editorials.

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