The New Normal
(Note, game discussions start about halfway down.)
As an English teacher, I have to explain things like the parts of plot to my students during the course of a year. I’ve always had a hard time with some of the traditional definitions other teachers give younger students, like the climax being the “most exciting part of the story,” which often is a very personal preference, or the definition for resolution, which is often given as something like “where the action ends and the story comes to a satisfying conclusion,” but it doesn’t always, does it?
This is all to make the point that I like to define resolution as “the new normal,” which, as you’ve see, dear reader, is the title of my blog today. The reality of my new normal is that I’ve taken a job that’s a lot more work for a little less money. That’s not to say I’m unhappy with the choice; I do have a level of freedom in my classroom that I didn’t before, and, more importantly, this school SUPPOSEDLY holds kids to their expectations and won’t just socially pass them on forever. That, of course, is yet to be seen.
All this extra time at work means less time at home and, at my age, more general fatigue. I’ve spent a lot of my evenings just sitting and watching TV, an activity I wouldn’t have thought myself capable of doing for such long hours when my computer games were so nearby. This means less play time (often only on the weekends) and, as a result, much less interest in spending “free” time at my computer writing. You’ve all seen the consequences of that: 4 or 5 posts in the last 3 or so months.
This is not to complain, mind you. I made a choice to choose ethics over ease, which at least gives me the ability to look further down my nose at all those wall-street types. I jest, of course (maybe), but nonetheless, I’m more tired, less gamed, and thus less verbose as I’ve been since I moved out of NYC. This is not to complain, though, just to explain and, in the process, do a little venting.
I want to write; every time I see my blog in its passive, life-supported state, I feel pretty unhappy. This blog has been one of my proud accomplishments for the past several years. I intended to keep it going, but clearly the updates will be much less frequent until and unless things change again in my life.
I’ve been playing a lot of turn-based strategy recently, though not exclusively. I snatched up both Invisible, Inc. and Massive Chalice on sale a few weeks ago, and they’ve both been a ton of fun. While they’re both from the turn-based strategy genre, they’re extremely different games.
Invisible, Inc. is a stealth game, a game a bit like a Shadowrun mission, which starts with the destruction of your secret organization and employs the player to keep hope alive for three days of whirlwind missions. This mad grab for resources culminates in a final battle for survival. I don’t know what happens after – if anything – because I died during that final mission; I was disheartened and frustrated, until I realized that the game was designed for this, as several new agents, programs, and item unlocks were given to me for my next try.
The game play, nonetheless, is compelling; the use of stealth and slow, careful progress is counterbalanced by an “alarm” system that increases the difficulty of the map every five or so turns. This constant threat of greater difficulty puts you in the position to take risks that you might not otherwise take, creating an pervasive sense of threat on each board, which of course fits the atmosphere of “succeed or die” that’s presented by the story line well.
Before my next try, I jumped into Massive Chalice. The game itself is very tongue-in-cheek, the titular cup being just that, a Massive Chalice imbued with dual spiritual guides who often argue and comment about each other in humorous ways. The game has a unique art style, too. While Invisible, Inc. uses a cool, art-deco meets cyberpunk art style, Massive Chalice avoids trying to be too realistic while still preserving a cartoony familiarity; while it looks nothing like World of Warcraft, the stylistic concept feels the same.
The game play in Massive Chalice is a more straightforward fantasy combat system with c lasses with specific abilities and a party system where you can choose who you want to take with you. On top of that, though, is the kingdom-wide survival game, where you have to marry folks to breed heroes, fight off the invading enemy, and try to survive for 300 years. It’s an interesting dual-natured game in that way; you have to balance your improvement of your heroes with the fact that they age and die. You can’t just invest everything into one or two of them because it will all be for naught when they pass.
So both games strike a balance in their game play; one between speed and safety, and one between immediate investment and guaranteed loss. Both are excellent in their own way, and I suggest you give them a try!
Stubborn (and glad to be publishing)