Why soundtracks in games are awesome

I used to not pay much attention to soundtracks in games (sorry to all of the game composers out there), it wasn’t something I focused on, and certainly not something I appreciated. However, a number of my recent posts have been focused on how I have matured, and how this maturation has brought to light many features in games I perhaps missed or didn’t view with importance. Gaming soundtracks are one of them.

Reflecting back on some of the games I have played in the past, the songs and music are so influential it’s almost a wonder how I missed it in my early years of playing games.

So, why is the soundtrack so important to me? Let’s run through it.

1) It breathes life into the game

Soundtracks have an incredible ability to turn what is already a beautiful view, or an intense fight, or wandering through a cave, into something special. A beautiful view suddenly becomes a window into the gaming world, a wondrous sight that you are able to behold as if you are actually there. An intense boss battle becomes an epic showdown for the fate of the world you are protecting from annihilation. Wandering through a cave becomes an adventure into the dark unknown, an abyss that curiosity will not let go unexplored. Everything becomes so much more immersive and intense, and I love it.

On top of amplifying what is already happening, the soundtrack can also alter how you feel. The

The emotions that soundtracks can create can be spell bounding, and can add another level to an already amazing game to help it achieve new heights. This brings me to my next point…

2) It can create unforgettable memories

Emotions are at the core of some of the longest lasting memories we have, and games are no exception when it comes to evoking emotions. If soundtracks can trigger emotions, and emotions lead to memories, the link between a soundtrack and memories is undeniable. When I hear songs from games I have played in the past, whether it be in the last week or even as far as 10 years ago, it can trigger some intensely vivid memories. All it takes is to close my eyes and for a moment, it as if I am sitting there playing through that exact part of the game again, and it is breath-taking to be able to experience fond memories such as those so clearly.

To this day any time I hear Saria’s song from Zelda: The Ocarina of Time, it’s as if for a brief moment I am back in Hyrule with the warm sun on my face, Navi by my side, solving puzzles and rushing to crush Ganon once and for all. The feeling is indescribable.

3) It is genuinely enjoyable to listen to

Some gaming soundtracks are just a great jam from time to time. Nostalgia aside for a moment, when I am walking around town or heading to university sometimes I just can’t help but switch on ‘Hopes and Dreams’ from Undertale. Obviously this might just be me, but the way the song makes me feel (along with other non-gaming songs) is awesome.

This leads me to my next point.

4) They can make you feel awesome

No question about it, songs are amazing at making you feel stuff. I realise I mentioned this earlier, as yes, the emotions that soundtracks can produce can imbed vivid memories in your brain. But the emotions they can make you feel can be awesome in themselves.

Going back to the example of walking into university, listening to something like Hopes and Dreams, a boss battle music theme,  can imbue me with an incredible sense of confidence and excitement. The same feeling that you get when you are taking on a boss in a game.

Even sometimes before studying or during, putting an inspiring gaming soundtrack can skyrocket my motivation, and kickstart my motivation to work hard into high gear, something I can definitely appreciate when the going gets tough.

 

But this is just me, and I would love to hear from you. Are there any games with soundtracks that you think rock? And what makes them awesome for you? Let me know in the comments, and if you enjoyed this post, be sure to like it and follow me for more posts. Until then, stay beautiful 🙂

 

 

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Why I grind in video games.

So to start this off, maybe you already know what it is but I better answer the question just in case. What is grinding? I can assure you it isn’t the dancing kind. Instead, grinding in video games refers to repeating the same or similar actions, in order to earn something as a result, whether it be loot, experience, but usually something of value.

Now, to someone who hasn’t heard of or engaged in grinding, you may think it’s silly, I’ve certainly had my moments. But the reality is grinding takes many forms, has varying degrees, and is something that is very common in games. It can range from killing the same monsters over and over in an MMO to level up, to trying to get headshots with your newest gun in Call of Duty. The first time I can remember grinding in a game was in Pokemon Gold as a kid, after getting my starter and catching a new Pokemon I trained them up in the early routes until the first gym leader didn’t stand a chance (Whitney’s Miltank was still a nightmare though).

So why do people do it?

Surely if you are just repeating something over and over again it’s bound to be boring, and sure, maybe it does get boring every so often, but if you are grinding, the benefits almost always outweigh the negatives.

While I definitely can’t speak for everyone, I can at least speak for me, and perhaps a couple of my reasons will resonate with you. But without further ado, let’s jump into it:

1) The reward

Perhaps the most obvious and straightforward reason, but generally when you are grinding, you are doing it to achieve something or get something out of it. I could go on and on about this, so I’ll try to keep it brief. As I mentioned earlier, this may come in the form of experience so that you can level up and become more powerful. It might also be a certain special piece of loot that only drops from a particular enemy, and/or has a really low drop rate. Maybe you just really like doing the same thing over and over again and that’s the reward for you.

But to give an example, in Borderlands 2, certain legendary guns and equipment have a higher chance to drop from specific enemies, so the best way to get them is, surprise surprise, to kill the respective enemy that drops the item you want over and over again. Thus the grinding begins. I can confidently say I have spent more time grinding gear in Borderlands 2 than I care to admit, but to this day whenever I see an orange rarity drop my heart still skips a beat in excitement.

Either way, leveling up or looking for gear, it’s designed to make your character stronger, thus allowing you to proceed through the game with relatively more ease than before, or even get past a part that had you stuck prior. In some games, grinding may almost be a necessity to progress, and in others, an optional means to make the game a bit easier. Overall it’s that satisfaction and enjoyment gained from reaping the fruits of your labor that drives grinding, and makes it rewarding and fulfilling.

2) It resembles real life

Think about, what do you do in real life? You go to work/study day in and day out, which possibly doesn’t vary drastically on a day to day basis, until one day you get your paycheck, a promotion or a pay rise or an awesome exam result. Sound familiar? Because it parallels what you do in games when you grind for that experience or loot.

Of course, this assumes your day to day life doesn’t vary much, and mine doesn’t, but perhaps what I’m getting at is being able to relate to real world experiences. If you are conditioned in the real world that repeating something productive over and over again yields results, surely that would translate over to a gaming situation.

Even beyond just work and study, learning skills follows the same pattern. Learn. Repeat. Profit. Well, something along that line anyway. Life is full of examples I’m sure, but I like to think that when I get into a game, grinding is an almost instinctive thing to do just because of how well it follows and reinforces this pattern.

3) It provides a good platform for learning and experimenting

This may be stretching it as far as what grinding includes, but you can let me know. Taking a while a stop and do some grinding against the same enemies gives you an opportunity to test out new equipment or skills, while at the same time reaping the benefits of grinding, as well as not progressing further into the game. Certainly sometimes before I want to proceed into what may be a pretty difficult part of the game, I will make sure what works and what doesn’t, and what to watch out for. For this, beating up the same enemies I know that I can take out without too much danger over and over again seems to be an effective method of testing, as well as learning.

Practice makes perfect, and the more time you spend learning how the game works, the better you will get at it. In this way you aren’t even just leveling up or finding better loot, but you can also become a better player. It’s a win win.

4) It’s low stress

Sometimes just sitting back and not having to think too much about what I’m doing can be a good way to relax. Combined with the earlier reasons and in the right situation, repeating the same, usually non-difficult task over and over can almost be therapeutic in it’s relaxation, even more so if there is something that I am trying to accomplish by the grinding.

 

But I am just one person, and these are a few reasons I can come up with, I would love to hear from you. Why do you grind in video games? And what are your thoughts on grinding in games in general? Let me know in the comments below, and if you enjoyed this post, be sure to give it a like. Until next time, stay beautiful 🙂

Why I don’t play competitive games

Competitive gaming seems to of had a massive surge in the last few years, a surge which I have completely missed. It is staggering to me the number of people that play competitive games nowadays. Whenever I look at the player numbers for games like Dota 2 and CS: GO, there are hundreds of thousands of people playing them day in and day out.

Personally, I have never really jumped on the competitive bandwagon, and honestly, I’ve never exactly been interested in it. This is strange, because in every other facet of my life, I am extremely competitive, and I thrive off of it. Sure enough, whenever I do play a competitive game, I take it very seriously, and this is one of the things I’ll talk about later. By the way, when I say competitive games, I mean all competitive games, as in any game that pits you against other players.

I understand why people enjoy competitive gaming, and I am in no way trying to say that there is something wrong with people who do, because there isn’t anything wrong with people enjoying something I don’t. I used to play Dota 2 quite frequently, but it reached a point where I realised it wasn’t my thing. The fact of the matter remains that I don’t enjoy playing competitively, and hopefully I’ll be able to explain why.

So without further ado, let’s jump into my reasoning.

1) I take it way too seriously

As I alluded too earlier, I’m a very competitive person, so much so that I will turn anything into a challenge, even if it’s just a casual game of cards or something. So you can only imagine how seriously I take competitive games when I do play them.When I play, I play to win. I become a whole different person almost, losing becomes rage inducing and stressful, and all the enjoyment from actually winning is lost, and really, isn’t even that satisfying, so it ends up being this weird situation where I’m not even enjoying the game I’m playing.

That’s what it’s all about for me, is enjoyment, something I’ve talked about a few times on this blog. If I’m not enjoying what I’m playing, then there isn’t really a point for me to keep going, and I certainly don’t need more stress in my life. So when I do play games that are even slightly competitive, I have to change my whole mind set about it, and loosen up, so that I can actually play for fun and not play to win. But if I’m not going to be serious when I play, I don’t to be playing with people who are playing seriously. Funnily enough this is one of the main reasons I stopped playing Overwatch, even on Quick Play, I have found people in general take the game very seriously. And this brings me to my next point..

2) Communicating is hard

For me at least. I like to think of myself as the leading authority on social awkwardness, and my self confidence is pretty abysmal as well, so whenever I even come close to trying to talk to people in an online game, I can’t bring myself to do it. Even when people talk to me in a game, regardless of whether they are the nicest person on the planet, I just become an anxiety-ridden, nervous wreck, and either don’t respond, or just leave the game entirely. This has eventually evolved into an aversion to people in games in general, and hence an aversion to playing games with anyone other than my friends. A reasonably unhealthy reason not to play certain games perhaps, and hopefully something I can work on.

3) There are so many other games out there

When you combine the previous two reasons with this reason, not playing competitive games isn’t hard. There are a myriad of amazing games out there nowadays to play either on my own, or co-op with my friends. That way I can play without having to actively loosen up and try to have fun, because the fun comes naturally.

Bottom line is, with such a wide array of non-competitive games out there, finding something for me really isn’t that hard. Especially co-op games, which are some of the funnest games I’ve ever played in my life, at the moment I have been enjoying a lot of Dungeon of the Endless, and Rainbow Six Vegas 2. For when I’m on my own, I love to just hop onto Diablo and grind some loot, it never ceases to amaze me how many times I have been able to come back to it and still have a blast.

Not to say I don’t enjoy playing competitive games, in fact, I love to jam to some Battlefield or CS:GO when I have my buddies to have fun with and stop me from taking it too seriously. It’s just that with so many other equally amazing titles to pick from, games like Battlefield and CS:GO usually never see the light of day.

4) I am very self critical

By this I mean that I tend to focus too much on the negatives and the things that I do wrong when I play competitively, as opposed to things that I am actually doing right. This, no doubt, leads to a less satisfying experience. However, not only does it taint the experience as I am playing, but also when I am considering playing a game. Before I load it up I will have this moment where I think to myself “Hmmm, I haven’t played it in a while, what if I suck? I’ll probably suck, and then that will be sucky” and then I pick another game to play. So again, my inherent nature and attitude becomes a barrier between me and competitive gaming.

 

Well that’s enough from me, but I would love to hear about your own opinions and experiences. Do you enjoy playing competitive games? What is it about them that you do/don’t enjoy? Let me know in the comments below, any suggestions on how to deal with my issues with competitive gaming are welcome. Also if you enjoyed this post, be sure to give it a like. Until next time, stay beautiful 🙂

Just Because: 4 reasons indie games rule

Indie games are awesome. Okay not all of them, but reflecting back on 2016 (yes even though we are well in 2017 now) it was a great year for indie titles. We had games like Enter the Gungeon, Stardew Valley, and Inside (both of which I really need to get around to playing) which were all some of the best games to be released, standing among even triple A titles with million dollar budets. Not saying Overwatch isn’t terrific, but give me another person to play with and Towerfall Ascension can make for endless laugh out loud moments.

Yet sometimes I feel like it’s easy for them to underappreciated. People think I’m strange because I buy these supposedly second tier games when the reality is indie games have provided some of the richest and funnest gaming moments in recent years. Granted, a big part of it is finding the right indie game. Many, many indie games come out every year, and like non-indie games, some of them do it better than others.

But why do I love indie games so much?

Hopefully I’ll be able to answer that question in this post. While each game has their own merits, I’ll try to generalize my reasoning. But without further ado, let’s start this list:

1) They are creative

Indie games are usually made by small teams of people, or in some cases, a single individual, as in the case of Stardew Valley. Because they don’t have overbearing teams and stuff determining what they and can’t do, the resulting games from indie developers are things you wouldn’t normally see in triple A titles. These titles demonstrate new, interesting ideas and unique gameplay, and often the experience that is forged is amazing.

As well as this is the passion backing indie games. Because the developers get free reign over the development, they get to see their dreams realised. The teams’ commitment to their craft is reflected in the polish and refinement present in some indie games

Take Crawl as an example, this is a game which takes a simple idea, pitting friends against each other, and turns it into an interesting game of hot potato, where the person with the hot potato is a hero trying to win the game, and the rest of the players are trying to kill him and take the potato to have their shot at winning. It is hectic and chaotic, while being simple and clever. More than anything, it’s unique. Before this most games I had played were shooters such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, Pokemon games and an assortment of adventure games, but Crawl introduced me to a side of gaming I had never heard of or knew existed, and I was starstruck.

2) They are good for low spec machines

Many indie games are pretty low demand in the graphics department, and as a person who appreciates good pixel art and gaming on my laptop from time to time, this is a god-send for me. Not saying all indie games use pixel art, but many do, or else they tend to go with something else that looks equally beautiful. Normally, this leads to low graphical demand, and it means when I am out and without my normal gaming PC, I have a number of great games I can jam to on my laptop. Being able to game on demand is important to me, and indie games nail it.

3) They are cheap

More of a minor reason, but it’s something that I can appreciate. Most indie games are under $25 NZD, which is cheap compared to more mainstream titles coming out nowadays which sit at around $100 sometimes. Given the amount of fun and enjoyment gained from these games they are absolutely worth the expense, and when they go on sale they can get so cheap I can hardly resist sometimes.

4) They usually have some form of co-op play

Whether it be couch co-op or online or both, some indie games are made to be played with other people, because gaming is just better with others. In particular local co-op seems to be reasonably prevalent, which is an awesome feature, I love being able to just connect some controllers and play with the people I’m with. Countless times local co-op has turned a boring, yawn-fest into a room full of laughter and excitement. This brings me t my next point, co-op has the potential to produce some outrageous fun, especially with indie games like Rocket League and Towerfall Ascension, and it’s inclusion in these games just turns the experience from awesome to legendary.

Not to say that single player indie titles aren’t just as amazing. Last year games like Inside and The Witness just go to show some of the incredible experiences you can have in indie games without a player two option.

 

Now to finish off, not all indie games are amazing, incredible fantastically wonderful experiences in the world of gaming, but when you find the right one for you, it can really be some of the most fun possible in a game. That’s why I love them.

But I would love to hear from you, do you play indie games? If so what are some of your favourites? And what makes them awesome to you? Let me know in the comments, and be sure to like this post if you enjoyed it. Until next time, stay beautiful 🙂

 

Just Because: 3 reasons why I don’t buy brand new games

In my previous post about the Steam Winter Sale which you can check out here, I mentioned that I don’t normally buy new games, or at least, I don’t buy them unless they are heavily discounted. So because of that, I have been inspired to write this post on exactly why.

Now I feel I should clarify, I do buy brand new games, but usually only 1 or 2 a year. While I’m sure many of you also only buy one or two a year, 2016 has been an amazing year for video games. I mean with games like Overwatch (which won Game of the Year), Gears of War 4 ,Battlefield 1 and Titanfall 2, it’s hard to disagree.

My brand new game of this year was in fact Overwatch (which I may do a belated thoughts for soon), and if you haven’t checked out this game, you should. However saying that I just bought betrays the journey I took from seeing it for the first time, doing extensive research on it, thinking about getting it for weeks, and then finally, actually buying.

But why do I make it so hard on myself? I mean it’s just one game right? I’m not gonna be breaking bank with it. Well in spirit with the title of this post, I am going to try why buying a new game is for me, such an arduous process, and why I usually end up saying no.

1) Games are expensive.

So I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks this, but buying a brand new game is expensive. Here in New Zealand, A brand new triple A title is around $90 to $100 NZD (around $70 USD), and for a student like me, this is a lot of dosh to be throwing around on games.

However this reason is likely the most debatable. Why? Because different games cost different moneyssss.  Example: Towerfall Ascension, a freaking awesome indie game, is only $18, whereas the newest Call of Duty is $110, so there is pretty large range. Generally if a game is over $25, I’ll probably wait till a sale, this brings me to my next reason.

2) I am stingy as hell.

Not stingy like a wasp, but stingy with money. Every purchase for me becomes an internal dilemma and an exercise in weighing up the pros and cons, and generally this will drag out to the point where I don’t even end up buying the thing I’m thinking about. In other cases, I’ll be so sure that I will get my moneys’ worth, but still deny myself from spending any money. I even get worked up when games go massively on sale and want to spend 4 or 5 bucks.

Now obviously this is a blessing and curse, I never overspend, and always have enough money for rent and stuff, but I miss out on all the cool games that I could be playing. Hopefully I’ll loosen up a bit for the Steam Winter Sale about to hit in less than a week, I have plenty of games on my list and besides, they say you remember all the good things about the game you buy, not the money you spent on it.

Just keep it within reason 🙂

3) I like to let the dust settle.

I talked about this a bit in my post about Pre-ordering games, which you can check out here. Basically, sometimes a game is released with numerous bugs and issues plaguing it, and sometimes it just doesn’t meet peoples’ expectations (*cough* No Man’s Sky *cough*). When this happens, I always feel a little better about my decision to not buy it right off the bat, because as any gamer knows, there is no worse feeling than buying a new game you have been excited for, just for it to end up being a disappointment.

Giving time for things to settle down means that you can get a better idea of what you are actually buying into before you buy it. Who doesn’t love that?

On top of that, sometimes sales can occur soon after it’s released where it goes on a discounted price. I have seen this happen a few times, and while it won’t be some massive discount, saving money is still saving money.

All in all, I think having a bit of patience can be worth it.

But hey, I’m just one person, how often do you buy games brand new? If you are like me and prefer to wait, what are your reasons? Keep in mind that ‘Just becuase’ is a perfectly viable answer. If you enjoyed reading this, be sure to give it a like, it really makes my day, and until then, stay beautiful 🙂

 

Just Because 1: Why I started a blog.

It seems appropriate somehow that my very first blog post should be about why I have started to go down this road in the first place.

Bear with me as I’m not entirely sure what I’m doing or starting here, but here goes nothing.

Blogs it turns out are extremely popular, much more popular and widespread than I originally thought, but it wasn’t until last night when I started this one that I was able to fully realise the extent of this phenomenon. And like everyone else before me, each and every one of those blogs began with a purpose in mind, whether it was to help others, just to see what it was like, perhaps as a way of making money, or just plain old wanting to somewhere to share ideas and thoughts with the rest of the world. Those are just a few examples, and while I have certainly missed a few, I at least know the reasons I started this, and writing this may just be my way of setting that in stone, creating a rock of sorts to ground me as I venture forth into the great unknown land called the ‘blogosphere’.

So here it is, why am I doing this to myself?

1) For fun

This is a big one, hence why I’m starting off with it. I mean why would I give this a shot if I didn’t think it was going to be fun, no one ever tries a new restaurant thinking that it will be terrible. And you can see the appeal, blogging provides a platform on which you talk about the things you are passionate about (which for me is health and gaming, weird combo maybe but oh well), or really, anything you want. If I wanted to write a post talking about my fascination of unicorns and what their horns are made of, I totally could.

And as someone who has a brain full of thoughts and ideas on a range of topics, having a platform where I can turn that all into words and share them with others who may or may not find them entertaining and/or helpful is both exciting and relieving. And honestly, having an extra pass time in my life which I enjoy can’t be a bad thing in theory.

2) To learn

I love learning new skills, and writing and learning how to convey my thoughts into actual words and sentences is something I struggle at, and at times stressful. More often than not, I go to say something to someone, and even having thought about it, it comes out as just a garbled mush of sounds, like when you try to speak with your mouth full of food. This is embarrassing, and happens way to often than I care to admit. And what better way to get better at conveying thoughts through words and sentences than practicing, again and again through post after post. You know what they say, practice makes perfect (or, well, as close to perfect as human error allows, we all mistakes sometimes).

Better yet, this also provides a platform to receive feedback from those who read these posts. Making mistakes and having them pointed out to you is one of the best ways to learn not to do something, and conversely, having people telling you what you are doing awesomely is one of the best ways to learn what to keep doing.

3) To share interesting ideas and news

Even though this is only my first post, I never know if one day down the line someone might be reading one of these posts from me, and think ‘Wow this guy is great, he really helped me through a difficult time’ or ‘Haha, this guy is actually kinda funny’ etc. So while I’m not expecting this blog to go places, it’s the idea that maybe one day this will provide value to someone else that was a key driver to me starting this venture.

And honestly it just makes sense, if I share something that helped me or that I found interesting, there is a chance that someone else out there might also find it interesting or helpful (and maybe an equal chance that someone will find it silly and dumb but that’s beside the point). And helping others and sharing are two of the of the awesomest things out there.

4) To be proactive

I recently read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (excellent choice after reading some novice bloggers’ first post if I do say so myself) and this was one of the habits discussed. Now basically what this means is that we are the masters of our own fate, which aside from being a really sick title, is another way of saying ‘you decide what you make of yourself’.

Now the way that this blog relates to that, is that I have always wanted to do this (namely for the previous three reasons) and this added fuel to a fire that was really just pitiful and lacked any kind of substance and that I was trying to build in the rain.

By starting this blog, and writing this post, I have already taken some of the first steps to being someone that influences and helps others, something I am very passionate about, and also to being ‘one of those guys that writes stuff on the internet’, so you know, basically everyone with an internet connection. Making steps like this puts me out of my comfort zone, and enables me to develop skills and confidence that I feel will help me achieve even greater things.

In a sense, being proactive is a stepping stone, a stone I’ll probably put in my pocket for safe keeping, because it’s a pretty cool stone what can I say.

 

That wraps this first post, please be sure to let me know if you enjoyed reading, and be sure to look out for more stuff by me in the future. And if you have come back to this post from a future post, then thank you for reading.

And of course thank you for reading this post now. Stay beautiful 🙂