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

Testimony of an Apocolypse – Fondly Remembering Resident Evil 2

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(Note: this article will contain spoilers for the first five or so minutes of the original version of this game. Consider yourself warned! – 3P)

I remember exactly where I was and who was present when I first played Resident Evil 2.

In my best friend’s living room, the family had made way for us to play our new game on the big TV in the living room. He and I were ecstatic, having bonded over other games like Tomb RaiderWild Arms, and Syphon Filter among plenty of others. We had never played the original Resident Evil together, but both of us were so excited to get into the second installment after trying the demo that I had made a successful plea to my parents to buy the game for me; I was 14 at the time, so plea bargains were commonplace to get the hot new releases coming out.

Our mothers chatted idly in the kitchen while his brother, who was older than us by a few years, stood by and watched us with amusement and his own interest in the game. His then-girlfriend was also there, at least excited by osmosis, as I don’t think she was much of a gamer.

My friend judiciously decided that I should be the first person to break ground on this new trek through the undead. I popped the disc in, grabbed a controller, and stationed myself right in the middle of the room, the lights dim as the sun was setting outside, lowering us naturally into the looming shadows of the night.

Soon thereafter, I was greeted by my protagonist, a determined-looking young woman clad in red and black, gliding into Raccoon City on her motorcycle: Claire Redfield. As she stepped into Emmy’s Diner and found herself face to face with her first (of hundreds) reanimated adversary, my adrenaline started to pump. She wasn’t a hardened military type like her lost brother, Chris, or Jill Valentine. She wasn’t even a cop like Leon Scott Kennedy, the other option for the main character. She was a college student, unaware of the danger she was in. She was Laurie Strode, Nancy Thompson, and Sidney Prescott; the Final Girl of Resident Evil 2.

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After being rescued by Leon, however, her composure is regained and the two of them, working to decipher their situation, wind up separated once again by an unexpected tractor trailer. Once again, I was alone, surrounded by the flames of the crash and already with zombies looming before me. It didn’t take long- maybe unloading bullets into a total of one of the many incoming stalkers- for me to realize that I was not going to have enough bullets to take care of all of these. This wasn’t the empty and unsettling front hall of the Spencer Mansion; Raccoon City was quite literally going to eat me alive if I didn’t do something besides mow down my problems.

With haste, I managed to maneuver Claire between her assailants, being caught once or twice but breathlessly finding my way from screen to life-threatening screen. As she held her side and ducked through an alleyway toward the gates that would lead to my hopeful salvation, I already had marveled at the memories I had from the last few minutes: losing poor Robert Kendo in his gun shop as zombies swarmed him from the window, being cornered in a too-tight alleyway and worrying that it may be the last of my already dismal moments, and even the fact that Claire was giving an indication of being wounded without my having to go into the inventory screen- all of it wrapped me in the immersion of this desperate slog to try to find salvation and a moment to breathe.

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As Claire slipped through another thick metal door, I started to wonder if the police station that Leon had shouted for her to meet him at even existed anymore. The city was in shambles and given that there had never been a view into Raccoon City proper before, it was possible the entire adventure was going to be Claire and Leon ducking from street to street to find an escape. This place seemed more open, though. Something seemed calm, though not safe by any means. My friend and I went quiet, as did the couple in the room with us. I made Claire descend a staircase, going under some bridge. It seemed safer than traveling in the open and to my relief, it was devoid of any un-life.

I stopped to look at the other people in the room.

“Maybe you’re almost there?”
“If you take another hit, you’re probably dead.”
“Wow, this is intense…”

No one really seemed sure what was going to happen next. I was resolved to find some safety- and a place to save because I could not take any more of the stress let alone have to relive it. Claire marched up an opposing set of stairs back to the surface, and I braced myself for another mad dash.

There it was.

The Raccoon City Police Department.

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I stood outside for a brief second to take in the victory that I had reached the massive double doors to what I knew was temporary safety. At the shouting of “GO GO GO” from the room, Claire lunged into the building, leaving the intense struggle through the streets of Raccoon City to dive deeper into the incidents that would bring her to be my favorite survival horror character in gaming to date.

I’m anticipating the remake of Resident Evil 2 this Friday so strongly because the opening sequence of the original was one of the best and most engaging I had experienced up to that point. I fell in love with the characters, the environment, and the mounds of atmosphere that the game set its foundation upon. Having played the one-shot demo of the new game, I sincerely believe it has a lot of potential to rouse those emotions in me again. As a longtime gamer, I’m looking forward to that. Those feelings were the reason I’ve been a gamer for so long, and Resident Evil 2 has been set into an unshakeable display case in my heart as one of my all-time favorite titles.

Any readers else looking forward to this remake as much as I am? Any memories or hopes for the series should this remake do as well as it’s shaping up to? Feel free to let me know in the comments or on Twitter, and I look forward to seeing you all again once I come up for air once Resident Evil 2 releases!

– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)

Launching Into 2019 – My Blog and Gaming Resolutions

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I’ve haven’t really been one for New Year’s resolutions for a while.  When I was younger, it was a great benchmark to look at my past year and try to make myself a bit better in the coming year.  Of course, my follow through on these resolutions was pretty hit or miss, so it tended to lead to disappointment and a bit of self-deprecation in the end.  For a while now, my “resolution” has just been to “be better”.  Be a better person, be a better son; whatever was pertinent.

This isn’t to say that I’m against the idea of resolutions.  Plenty of people use them as reminders of how they want to be and what they are doing to achieve their goals.  While I have a couple of thoughts as to how I want to improve in upcoming days, weeks, and months, this has turned me toward my gaming and blog habits.

I mean, let’s face it- 2018 has not been a hot year for a lot of people for a myriad of reasons.  Maybe having a few goals in mind could help me with reaching some desired results and working toward being a “better” me.  After a lot of thinking and retrospect over this last rotation around the Sun, I’ve come up with a few aspirations I have going forward.

Write More Regularly
I’ve actually managed to stick to my goal of not beating myself up when I don’t post frequently.  Life is unpredictable and a lot of things, both negative and positive, can really muck up a writing schedule when it’s not paying your bills.  I had a good solid amount of time, though, where I was putting out content regularly and got into a rhythm that seemed to suit me well.

Things came up.  I started a new job that didn’t have regular hours and life became a bit of an overturned toy box for a number of reasons.  I’ve done very little to hide that depression has been a big factor in my disconnect at times- and that’s okay, too.  Mental health is important.  While writing has been a mitigator in curbing some of my more depressive states, getting the ball rolling has been a struggle at times.

I don’t plan on having stringent deadlines or pushing myself to write when I can’t; nothing good comes from that so far as I’ve experienced.  What I do want to do, though, is work on writing more pieces in between reviews.  I’ve really enjoyed writing the overviews for Fire Emblem and the Atelier series.  I miss jotting out a quick Top 5 article to get some discussion and conversation going.  I’ve wrapped my head around the idea that not every post has to be a deep dive into the innards of a game that doesn’t warrant it.  Sometimes it’s nice to just write to get some thoughts out there.

Read More Regularly
My goal was to read at least three to five posts a day.  I love a lot of the blogs and bloggers I’ve come to get to know through this medium.  They put out some amazing work and opinions.  Not to mention that my interactions with the folks behind these blogs have been eye-opening and have made me feel like a part of a community of sorts.

If you think it’s tough to write while depressed, though, you should see me trying to focus on an article in that state.  Between working with some of the attention deficit I have and events going on around me, I haven’t read nearly as much as I would like.  Slowly, though, I’ve been getting back that spark to hone in and really dig into some good books, blogs, and articles lately.  I feel like this goal may not be as hard to reach in the future- so long as I actually stay cognisant regarding the goal itself!

Game For the Sake of Gaming
This isn’t a hard goal for me at this point, but it’s one I’ve tried to keep at the forefront of my blogging mind.  I grew up playing games.  They’ve been my getaways, my friends when I’m lonely, and my art and composition studies.  I want to write about games because I love them and discussing them.  It’s the same reason I love discussing horror movies and comic book characters.  There is so much to be passionate about- but that passion doesn’t work (at least to me) if I don’t enjoy what I’m being passionate about.

I’ve talked to a few friends who have been streaming and writing lately, and the consensus seems to be the same- play games when you want to and play what you love (or think you might enjoy, at least).  Don’t get me wrong- if 3PStart suddenly takes off or I suddenly start seeing income from my writing, I may have the occasional duty to perform.  I don’t see this as being more than a passion project for a long time, though, and I’m actually okay with that.  This is why you’re going to see the same articles going forward on weird obscure games, retro titles, indie hits, and the rare looks into the current superstar games.  I’ll be more than happy to have you along for the ride!

Let’s Ring in the Holidays and the New Year!
There’s so much more to say and plenty of other goals to reach that are a bit less “personal”.  I’d love to give the site a visual overhaul among a few other quality-of-life improvements.

Saying thanks to everyone who reads, comments, interacts or any combination of those things feels important.  This community has meant a lot to me.  So many of you are so hard-working in your lives and with your hobbies and blogs of your own that I feel pretty amazing that you stop and check out my little corner of the Internet when you do.  I strive for positivity and analytical conversation, and I get it in spades here and with plenty of folks on Twitter.

Whether you’re a few miles away or across an ocean from here, just know that your hard work and passions are admired- even if I haven’t gotten to leave many comments or interact much with you.  I’ve got my goals going forward to try to rectify some of that, and I’m sure everyone who reads this has their own, as well.

If you want to share some, I’d love to engage in discussion.  If not, I wish you well on whatever your goals are going into the next indeterminate amount of time and hope to engage with many more of you throughout!

Until next we meet!

– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)

A Grotesque and Beautiful Love Letter – Friday the 13th’s Virtual Cabin and Challenges

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Given that we’re smack in the middle of the spooky season- and yes, for many of us, Halloween is a month-long celebration- I find that this is one of the easiest times to marry two of my pop culture passions: video games and horror movies.  I’ve made it a mission to play through a few of the horror games I’ve been stowing in my backlog, hence my last review of Layers of Fear and hopefully at least one or two more before the pumpkins and sheets with holes in them are tucked away until next year.

Something keeps bringing me back to GunMedia’s Friday the 13th, though.  I’m not big on multiplayer that involves matching up with random people and trying to play a game as I’ve had one too many toxic encounters and, to be honest, it makes me a little anxious to think about despite having had plenty of pleasant rounds of this one.  Oddly enough, though, I’m enamored with the single-player offerings that the game has on display.  For those of you who are hesitant to grab the game but are fans of the series, allow me to expound on why I still love this game despite not jumping into the real heart of its contents as a stellar-but-still-flawed asymmetrical horror romp.  If you’re not a fan- well, obviously I still hope you enjoy this little off-the-cuff spurt of excitement.

Also, just as a precaution, there are some minor spoilers involved below, just in case anyone wants to go in completely blind to either of the single-player parts of the game.

Give Me Something To Scream About

20180525093419_1It’s easier to pinpoint exactly what I love about the single-player Challenges.  With a total of ten ‘vignettes’, Friday the 13th puts you in the grimy boots of the infamous Jason Voorhees as is in the middle of trying to murder a number of teenagers.  While this is exactly what one might expect, there’s a degree of difficulty in opening the next Challenge from the one you are attempting, as you have to put to use keeping track of where your targets are, who might be in their line of sight, and what tools are at your disposal.  I’m told this is a lot like the Hitman games, but I honestly haven’t tried those yet so I have to take other gamers’ words for that.

The beauty of these Challenges is all of them are slight variations on scenes from the films.  The first finds you just off of a clearing where two young men are having car trouble and while one attempts to fix the car, the other goes off into the woods to relieve himself.  Fans of the series will almost instantly recognize this from Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning.  Another has you causing a power outage, resulting in a stoner couple who have to fix the problem among other people on the grounds.  This echoes back to my favorite entry, Friday the 13th Part 3, and winds up playing out much like the climax of that movie does.

20180525095913_1The developers were smart about this, however, and they vary up the scenarios so that they feel fresh and a little unfamiliar, partially due to the plugging of the game’s counselors into the roles fans already know and also due to the aspects that sometimes, characters will do something completely different than their analog in the film does.  They really do become challenging after the first few, given that I still haven’t actually “completed” the final scenario.  Challenges are good fun snippets that play out like a highlight reel for the Friday the 13th series and if like me, you aren’t fantastic at stealth style games, you’ll get some hours worth trying to perfect each mission.

“Paul, There’s Someone In This Room…”

20171222014550_1Where I really spent a lot of time, however, was in the game’s Virtual Cabin.  When you first ‘boot up’ the cabin, you find yourself in a nice cozy space that has been frozen in time.  Teenagers lean against the railing of the second-floor overhang, the room is in just enough disarray to show it’s been lived in, and the only way anything moves is if you pick it up or manipulate it.  After inputting some information on a nearby computer, you can move about and hover over nearly every item that stands out during which you are given the option to interact with it.  Most of these items will result in a pop-up with some snippet of information about the game, the film series, or something about the actors and development involving both.  At its core, the Virtual Cabin is an interactive encyclopedia of knowledge on Friday the 13th that even I, as a pretty stalwart fan, found some new bits of information from.  That in and of itself was pretty worthwhile to me.

20171222014622_1Then I noticed the puzzles.  Small items that were out of place made their way into my ‘inventory’.  The first time this happened, I stopped and my heart got a little fluttery- I wasn’t just looking up facts.  There was a game to be played here and I would be damned if I wouldn’t solve these puzzles.  Some of them involved putting figurines into a diorama of a scene from one of the movies in their correct positions.  Another involved putting the different masks that Jason has worn in order on hooks against the wall.  Every piece brought me closer to- something.  I wasn’t really sure what.  Eventually, I found my way into a part of the cabin I couldn’t get into before and with one interaction, it was over.

That didn’t seem right.

20171222012939_1I jumped back in and after some struggles (and I’ll admit, a quick glance at a walkthrough), I found myself in a very different Virtual Cabin.  To be clear, it was the same but after a few actions, the lights were out.  The power box now had a large axe jutting from it.  The frozen teenagers weren’t in their spots anymore in the main lobby of the cabin.  There was a sense that someone was definitely in the cabin with me and that I was no longer safely doing puzzles and learning about my favorite film series.  It felt like I was plunged into a survival horror situation.  Hovering over things now gave different information which was still interesting trivia but stressed that I was now in a very unfamiliar setting.  Once again, there were puzzles to be solved- but I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a little tense and dangerous to be walking around at that point.

All of that was before the third run through.

Some Folks Sure Got a Strange Idea of Entertainment

I won’t go any further with describing the Virtual Cabin experience since hopefully, you’ll get the chance to check it out yourself some time if it interests you.  Are the Challenges and the Virtual Cabin worth the price of the whole game?  Not really, though you can definitely get your hours worth out of them if you’re a big fan of the film series.  While the multiplayer aspect of the game is pretty fun, I’ve honestly gotten a lot of mileage out of the single-player that I didn’t expect.  I also think that this aspect gets swept into the shadow of the online aspects of Friday the 13th unfairly.  If you’ve bought the game as an enthusiast and you haven’t spent time in the single-player modes, you really should.  A lot of love for the source material and quality work went into both aspects and neither aspect really seem to get the recognition they deserve.

On that, happy haunting and have a great time until we meet again!

– Matt (a.k.a. The3rdPlayer)