A Nine-Point Guide on How to Scare The3rdPlayer

20160731192339_1.jpgI would never call myself an expert on horror. I’ve watched a ton of horror films and played my weight in horror games so I’m no stranger to the tricks and tropes of the trade, either. I’ve gained enough of a reputation to be considered an aficionado, though, somewhere closer to an expert than a layman. What I do know is that after spending probably half of my life taking in an appreciated horror media is that I know what works for me and what doesn’t.

Something I’ve talked to a few folks on Twitter and in my life about is not necessarily what is done well or isn’t but what actually works to give you the creeps and keep you entertained. When it comes to films, for instance, a solid slasher movie will keep me watching while a lot of movies with possession or vampires don’t tend to strike the right chords for me. On the other hand, I know people who have the exact opposite inclinations. Some people are claustrophobic and can’t take certain camera angles. I know plenty of folks who can’t stand when movies victimize children because it feels like low hanging fruit for the sake of a reaction.

Games are a little different, though. There’s another level of immersion because you’re the one controlling the person going through the ordeal. By extension, these things are happening to you and if you want to finish the game, you’re going to go through a gauntlet of jumps, creeps, and “You Died” screens to see the end and find salvation. How do you know which horror games are for you, though? Do certain mechanics work more effectively toward embedding that dread into your bones? Are there effects that make you roll your eyes a bit or get so frustrated that you need to put your controller down for a minute to compose yourself?

Allow me to open up my own discussion with five ways that games can creep me out- and four ways a number of games have rubbed me the wrong way while trying. As always, since this is discussing a multitude of game mechanics and situations from video games, there will be spoilers below. Nothing that will ruin a game entirely, but it may take some of the punch out of some scares you might not want ruined. Consider yourself warned!
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The Frank West Conundrum – Analyzing a Non-Traditional Protagonist

20190714095151_1As I play through video games, I love to think about the characters and their motivations. I enjoy parsing through how a game- or movie, book, or any other media- represents its protagonists and their journey. Do their actions reflect any growth or movement of any kind emotionally or in their maturity? Do they come to terms with personal flaws and grow from them or, sometimes even more interestingly, do they keep their flaws and find ways to work around them? How does this piece of media engage me with a protagonist that acts as my surrogate in the world I’m interacting with?

Being a huge fan of role-playing games, I’m used to finding myself with 40 to 60 hours of time to sort through events with a small cast of characters from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances. They may start out selfish and have a turning point that leads them to a life of altruism or they may be a bit too naive and harden as the plot rolls out, becoming battle-weary and keen. In shorter games, it can be easier to track a character’s progression because the story beats are so close together and they have to have impact if the game takes pride in its narrative. On the other hand, it can be harder since there is only so much time to show someone’s story arc outside of the ongoing plot and changing a character too much in that time can prove disastrous. Games like The Last of Us, Tomb Raider, and Horizon: New Dawn work to fit an immersive story in with flourishes of character growth in a relatively short time. The protagonists, though, can be relatable to many of the audience members- those characters have their own struggles from the past and striking at them from time to time to rein the player into the mindset of their avatar.

In a bid to try to write a bit about the series, I’ve been playing through Dead Rising to refresh my memory and track improvements as the games released. While I’ve been enjoying it, there is one thing I can say for certain:

No one should be able to empathize with Frank West. Continue reading

When You See Yourself There – Pride Month Profile: Tommy (Indigo Prophecy)

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(Note: As these posts may dig a bit into character plot points, these may get a little spoiler-y. While the games involved may be old, I’d feel bad if I didn’t at least offer up a warning!)

Representation has been an issue for a number of folks across just about every media platform: literature, cinema, television and, of course, video games. When I started 3PStart originally, it was in part due to the fact that I didn’t see many folks from minorities present in the community with their work being showcased. That’s obviously somewhat changed since I’ve gotten to know more people from various places on the spectrum of race, sexuality, gender, and a number of other bloggers and content creators that fall into plenty of other categories. I feel fortunate to have come across so many intelligent and open-minded creatives in my travels through this mess we call the Internet.

Given that it’s Pride Month, however, this feels like the perfect time to highlight some of the characters that helped me feel a bit more included in the gaming world. At the heart of gaming and plenty of other mediums, I think a lot of people find characters that they can empathize with. Whether they are main characters or they show up in the periphery of the game’s story, a number of folks- especially those who don’t see their less common attributes on display very often- gravitate toward these characters no matter how prominent they are.

The first time I remember seeing representation that meant something to me was when I played through Quantic Dreams’ Indigo Prophecy. While I was really enjoying the game regardless, it wasn’t until the chapter, Dark Omen, that I felt a strong connection to the title. The main characters were interesting and the story was easy enough to dive into. I didn’t realize I could get more connected to the game as a whole, though, until a scene where Carla Valenti, the female protagonist, has a sit-down with her best friend, Tommy.

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Now, Tommy doesn’t show up much in the game. In fact, Dark Omen is the only chapter he appears in and aside from reading Carla’s tarot cards and making small talk, he does very little but push her characterization forward. When given the opportunity, though, Carla can chat her friend up about his life and goings on. It’s optional and obviously doesn’t have much weight on the plot, but if players pursue these conversations, an interesting tidbit is revealed.

At one point, Carla can ask Tommy if he’s met anyone. At first, this seems to possibly be setting Carla up to be interested in Tommy since we just met him and this is the first interaction we witness between the two. He responds, however, by telling her about a man that he met who seems to be a promising relationship prospect.

As a young homosexual adult in the mid-2000s, this floored me. It was a time when I was really trying to become more comfortable with myself as a human being, let alone with being out about my sexuality. To see this character, minor as he may have been, just having a “private” conversation about his dating status stopped me in my tracks for a minute- and I really do vividly remember that moment in my dorm room at college, sitting on the edge of my bunk bed. I also say “private” with big finger-curving quotes because while the conversation was in his own apartment with his best friend, an entire audience of gamers were listening in. The scope of the moment felt massive to me because while there were other games that were dabbling in the topic, this was my first exposure to this in a video game.

Cliche as it may sound- I felt seen.

After another line about lamenting on the old “society’s come a long way but still has further to go” topic regarding his alternative lifestyle, Tommy’s conversation goes back to Carla and the actual plot. The points aren’t driven in hard, but the fact of the matter is that sometimes, the representation doesn’t have to be overt. Sometimes, heavy-handed attempts can feel contrived and pandering. Not all of them, but like with many topics, if the attempt is strong and mishandled, it can be less than ideal. On the other hand, examples like Tommy may seem too obscured to be considered true representation to some.

For me, the subtlety of Tommy and his conversation was what I needed at the time and it has stuck with me for years. I’m sure plenty of people, no matter their life status, can trace back to when they started feeling empathy with a character (if they even do, as I know handfuls of folks who don’t become that invested). For a lot of us, though, it can be a really special moment, especially for those who feel like outliers in society at times.

There are plenty of positive depictions of various sexualities, genders, and race among other minorities who don’t see a ton of visibility in general. Heck, there are some quality depictions of more commonly seen walks of life that are much more productive and admirable than most. While I’ll surely be adding more of these throughout the month, I’d love to hear from others through posts, comments, or even just on Twitter if you have a character you empathized with that has meant something to you because you simply don’t see characters like them often. Characters resonate with us for different reasons, be it through aesthetic, concept, or otherwise.

Until next time!

– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)

PAX East 2019 – Paying Homage in the Physical – My First Time Cosplaying

PAXEast19LogoI need you folks to bear with me, as this is sort of PAX East adjacent and sits just next door to video game coverage. That said, I’d like to think folks are here to also see some of my ‘human interest’ stories. I’m human. I’m mildly interesting. Thus, here we are.

The weekend of PAX East, I tried something I’ve always wanted to but didn’t totally know how to go about.

I cosplayed.

This is your last warning to turn back, as you’re not going to see a game review here. Just some stream of consciousness chatter and some pictures of yours truly- in the case that you may have ever wondered what I look like and haven’t seen my multiple photos on Twitter.

Still with me? Still intrigued? Well, come on down and listen while I spin a short yarn about my lead-up and follow through on my first time cosplaying.  Continue reading

PAX East 2019 – Top 5 Most Anticipated Games

PAXEast19LogoHey, folks! Welcome to the first of a series of posts concerning my three days of exploration at PAX East in Boston last weekend. While I don’t want to capitalize too much of the blog’s bandwidth to the convention, there were a lot of great things to talk about and experiences that I wanted to document so hopefully, you’ll find some fun information and insights in the next few entries to the 3PStart archives!

My first post cuts right to the heart of what I think folks are waiting for: the games I’m looking forward to the most after perusing the massive PAX floor. Now I’m going to warn you- the idea of waiting in line for an hour for a game was completely unappealing to me so I may have seen some snippets of some promising high-profile games like Days Gone but there was so much to see. With my interests being as they are, I was more drawn to the smaller booths on the floor, as well. You’ll find plenty of coverage on those larger titles elsewhere, I’m sure, and hopefully, my list here will shine some light on a few games folks may not have heard of and will find themselves anticipating like I am!

With that, feel free to check out my in-a-particular order list after the cut to see the five games I am most excited to see come to my gaming screens over the next year or two! Continue reading