Popcon 2017 was my first “con” event in 2017 after arrival in Indianapolis, IN. It was mesmerizing. After skipping 2018 event in lieu of other travels and visits, I picked up chance to visit this year in 2019. Unfortunately, apart from some blazing exceptions, it was kind of “meh” event. Might be due to great expectations on my part, but still Popcon 2019 was like body without spirit, like beautiful visage of flower missing sweet nectar within.
Let’s take a look at good, best and ugly parts of Popcon 2019, IN.
Cosplay…was again on par. Fans had clearly poured their hearts out into preparing costumes and playing the part. Some of them gone to extreme length (see below) considering the June summer heat.
Arcade and table-top Gaming: Arcade gaming had clearly saved the day for me from “deja-vu” wandering of the popcon 2019. Also presence of table-top gaming was most welcomed.
Same stores: Not much engaging stores apart from usual geeky clothing and paraphernalia. Not much variety in terms of art on display also. I also missed good comic stores.
Nothing special about special guests: It was like following the ritual to invite people related to pop culture industry without giving much thought and get it done with it just because it is ritual to invite someone at such pop culture event.
Visible spaciousness… in any “con” events itself speak a lot. It was not like convention hall was completely empty but this year it was comparatively less foot falls than usual. Stalls were less and not much there to at-least cover up space available for use of the convention hall.
Space Invaders in VR: one of the best experience of Popcon 2019 was playing space invaders in VR. VR setup was done using HTC vive and powerful supporting tower with VR enabled nvidia card by provider called Spectrum VR arcade (www.spectrumvrarcade.com).
Plank VR: I tried so called “plank” experience in VR which wants you to walk on narrow plank from top story balcony of Willis tower of Chicago and jump from it once you reached the edge ( yes, jump ). VR was more realistic and immersive than expected. ’nuff said.
All in all, this year’s Popcon was routine game which failed to hit “excitement” ball out of the park. Let’s see what happen to Comic-con 2019.
After leisurely “bobbing” on serene Atlantic for 3 days and 4 nights on cruise Carnival, occasionally heading off to islands of Nassau and Freeport, it was time to disembark. Early morning on the last day brought not so surprising drizzle which was very much welcome anticipating hot and humid Orlando weather, and surprise in form of origami out of beach towel on Carnival deck while going for breakfast. Whole top deck benches around pool and bars were occupied with curious little “audiences”.
Things to do: Pack your belongings very much in advance and be ready for your time slot. Each deck has allotted time slot which will be announced on PA. Moving out during your time slot will reduce hustle and bustle considerably. And it is quick.
Things to remember: Double check your stateroom for any "miss-outs". Have your passport and other identity documents handy. H1B work permit visa holders must have valid stamping. Seek out any further instructions on products which needs to be declared for custom.
Once successfully re-entered on US turf, we had almost whole day ahead of us to acclimatise Orlando after sunny, sandy beaches. After nature, we decided to take it up one notch up to science and technology and space mimicking humankind history in short span by visiting Kennedy space center.
Things to do: Kennedy space center is nearby cape Canaveral port; almost 24-25 miles. Easy to pay visit before going to proper Orlando nearby all amusement parks. There are many rental car options available at port itself. Also there are shuttle services provided by nearby hotels if you have reservations. Cab options are rare and expensive.
Kennedy space center is evidently something out of some Hollywood set on space opera. Replicas of various launch rockets adorning the horizon, it also adorned various space age symbolism almost conveniently placed for photo lovers.
Monetary note: Kennedy space center will cost you around $57 per person excluding any live launch observation.
Things to do: Check out any planned launch of space X or others. It will cost extra to be spectator of such event but might worth to see the launch (and land when it's spaceX vehicle) .
Apart from various 3D shows, plethora of space vehicle replicas scattered all over, future Mars program related info-games and other paraphernalia , best part of the visit was to witness Saturn V in its original size and capacity along with its science and intricacies on display at Apollo Saturn V center. NASA’s rocket assembly building was also one of the unique attraction during the included space center bus ride.
All in all it was something which we might not see in our lifetime. And hence worth to see.
We drove through congealing traffic towards our hotel in heart of Orlando from where we planned to “launch” our next 2 day trip towards Universal studio as well as Disney.
Freeport island of Bahamas represents the unlikable side of otherwise dreamy summer vacation spot; industrialization. It has more of “official” feel to it. Apart from rundown hotel buildings which went bankrupt, this second largest populated island of Bahamas houses factories of oil refining, cement, salt, pharmaceutical and steel pipe manufacturing.
We have pre-booked excursion; close encounter with dolphins. Bottle-nos dolphins are very playful mammals. Though transport to the dolphin pens took almost more then an hour which consisted of first half-n-hour drive in van to designated port and then more 20-30 minutes by small motor boat, all transport paid off with ample amount of close interaction time with dolphins.
There was nothing attractive apart from excursions and few local market places. Once returned back to our cruise Carnival, we had no other option but to leisurely participate as audience to last night’s various attractions. There was pleasing farewell surprise at our daily dinner restaurant when suddenly all catering cruise staff started singing and tapping to melodious songs.
Next day early morning we had to prepare for disembarking back to Orlando. And plan judiciously for three more days in Orlando, Florida.
Things-to-do: Get everything ready at night for next day landing. Do plan out early breakfast considering your time-slot. Pay attention to public announcement to know off-loading time slot for your deck well in advance.
Third day port of call of my 4 night vigil over cruise Carnival was port Nassau of Bahamas. We had opted for excursion on Nassau which is nothing but close encounter with sea lions.
Things to do: If you really interested in excursions which are very many, try to buy from cruise site. It has advantage of less stressing time-keeping. They will definitely make you returned in time to your respective cruise before it lifts the anchor at early evening.
Monetary note: Mostly you can only opt for single excursion per day. Also they seems expensive enough not to try more then one. On an average it will cost you around $100 per person.
On Nassau, it was bright and sunny. Our mood was matching the bright colors of structures adorning the beautiful port of Nassau. Once our jovial guide has brought all excursionists to their ferry boat to get everyone on Blue lagoon island, we realized that Bahamas was more of water then land. Nassau is capital of Bahamas. It has one celebrity spot called Atlantis hotel cum water adventure land and visitor spots such as hey market, historical stairs and similar. Nothing is as engaging as crystal blue water and white sand dotted with palm trees.
I had a feeling that Blue lagoon island was specifically molded for travelers. It consisted of enticing beach with dreamy azure tinted water, multitudes of water activities, hammocks and lay-downs under snooze induced palm trees, wooden bridges connecting various spots and a few spots supplying margarita and tropical colorful drinks. All tick offs for dream island getaway.
Our encounter with sea-lion was novel and fun. Californian sea lions are cute playful carnivores. They were trained well in their breeding pens. Other pens had other more playful mammal partner, bottle-nose dolphins.
Monetary note: All these close encounters are relatively expensive but unique. Following the tradition of any popular travel spot, all captures you need to buy from them which again burn extra hole in your pocket (starting from $20 to $80 or more based on number of digital copy you choose).
Once done with encounter, we kill our time on the beach and frolicking around in clear crystal water.
Brief visit to straw market is more then enough to fill your local merchandise shopping itch which comprises of colorful sea trinkets, conchs, shells, beads, sea faring antiquities and such.
Once back to Carnival ship, we prepared for scheduled mega deck party which was more of mid-sea dance party at night. After midnight, adults only area opened for late night party goers with more of night club feel.
We retired late night to our stateroom to get mandatory recuperating enough sleep and to be ready for next day port of call; Freeport island.
Previously on Carnival cruise and Bahamas: Day 1, Day 2
… is how day 2 defined by our choice of cruise, Carnival.
Strikingly blue sky, dazzlingly reflected on deep blue to turquoise water, stretching beyond infinity was as meditative as sailing on ship could conjure up; until that serene experience interrupted by occasional materialistic on-board activities. You will realize the true power of sea as nature when pathetically labeled “best camera” digital devices failed to capture seamless transitions of all the shades of blue. Also when your eyes failed to make sense of the end of stretching sea while it trying to make sense of sliver of a line called horizon where two blues of sky and sea handshake. Moment like this where the definition of infinity might have created or better infinity itself is conceived.
Day 2 was started off with hefty breakfast. Frolicking on deck pools and slides while one of the cruise host conducting participatory games was making the whole ship comes alive as collective organism. Carnival also had adult retreat areas for those who wants to cuddle up out of all the commotion, appropriately supplied with lay-downs.
Things-to-note: Professional photographer scattered everywhere on the major cruise events and on the deck were eager to capture you randomly. Posing is free. See how it all came out on their designated pictures wall.
After satisfied with our late morning to noon desk excursion and once tanning started to settle in ferociously, we had to get down to seclusion in our stateroom and be prepared for evening extravaganza.
Evening of the 2nd day on cruise wanted us to don our best attires and be presented at designated shoot-outs scattered in elegant main foyer as well as main deck. Cruise’s professional photographers tried to capture those opulent moments in stills.
Things-to-do: Always carry at least one of your best formal attire; suits for men and gowns or elegant tops, dresses for ladies. It will pay off once you see how your photographs came out on digital wall (And you need to pay more for physical copy)
Carnival had evening live shows planned for all of the evenings which we used to attend on regular basis at their superbly decorated amphitheater. Shows were all nice and mesmerizing with good visual and musical mixture. After dinner, we attended late night adult comedy shows which were actually quite funny and then retired for next day’s port of call early morning.
Things-to-note: Carnival had sumptuous lunch buffet options and delicious dinner variety. Even more then expected vegan options available for my vegan friends. One Indian dish also available daily with complementary "papad"(Indian side delicacy) and pickle for my Indian friends.
Above golden truth stated at Allegiant website has notoriously played it’s sinister part for us. We had chosen to fly to Orlando considering the fact that we had cheap flight options available during first two weeks of April. Given the fact that spring holidays were over in diminishing March, choosing April has its advantages in terms of flight options. But…
Caution 1: Manage you luggage well. Try to plan in advance and register number of luggages from Allegiant website. It will cost $10 less than at the airport. Allegiant has check-in baggage restricted to 40 lbs, cabin baggage to 20 lbs and only one free limited size personal belonging.
Things to remember 1: Allegiant has some really cheap options if there are no traveling reservations on day or time. We got flight tickets under $80 per person, to and fro. Check the calendar early on Allegiant website.
Caution 2: All Allegiant flights arrive at Sanford airport which is 60-70 miles away from port Canaveral and 50-60 miles to park area of Orlando.
Things-to-do: Do the on-line check-in which will be open 24 hours prior to departure.
I found Orlando flight conveniently “available” in the morning around 9:00 AM. Though had to settle up with returning flight at early 6:00 AM in the morning.
Once landed at Sanford, drive to port Canaveral was dotted with pleasant palm variants along the road with intermittent bright blue water bodies. Orlando was in full bloom at the start of summer.
We choose Carnival as our 4 night cruise expedition, leaving from port Canaveral to Nassau to Freeport and back at the port. There are various other cruise options available from Orlando or Miami other than Carnival. Aligning of the boarding date with other traveling plan, availability of the appropriate stateroom and budget were few of the major factors for selecting Carnival. Boarding the cruise was easy and more comfortable then boarding flight. Everything was arranged and planned out by cruise management beautifully.
Things-to-remember 2: Always carry passports. No need for Bahamas visa for valid US citizens provided they have green-card or valid stamped work visa.
Caution 3: select stateroom not too aft or too fore and at least at or above deck 4 if you have sea sickness. We had our stateroom at deck 6 where it was almost standstill all the time and won’t have any feeling of traveling on-board the ship. Choose as per your capacity of fulfilling the sea travel.
Things-to-do: Complete on-line pre-requisites on cruise’s website and set up your account in advance. On cruise, all you need is cruise access card which will also act as on-board currency for everything. On the last day, you will get receipt of all your spendings which has been debited from your linked credit card.
Settling down immediately after securing our room with tropical drinks, it was all about getting your way around the ship and be familiar with cruise’s mandatory emergency security briefing. Deck party has started once cruise raised the anchor. Once the tethering’s were severed, so as the connection with other outer world. Next 4 days, it was all about sun decked pools, beach-wear and sunglasses, various tropical alcoholic drinks in hot colors and tiny umbrellas perched atop, full-volume DJ’s, group dance and all the other hosting of hilarious fun activities, live shows, live musics and much more. Party has just started……..
Oncoming spring of 2019 sprouted fresh buds of desires for long travel after prolonged dormant winter here in Indianapolis. It was easy choice when you think of fleeing the cold; east coast or west coast. As west coast was partially ( very much partially, in fact) touch-based in winter of 2017, choice has befallen on east coast this time. And destination was Orlando, Florida.
There was lot to do and act upon when you sit down with intension of finalizing itinerary for Orlando which will result in less hectic and more relaxing travel plan. In fact, I realized that “relaxing” was not an option when covering Orlando with single-minded objective of vacationing. As if all theme parks of Disneyland and Universal Studio are not enough, you have Sea world, Miami, Key west and other attractions on your plate considering vicinity of the Tempa and Miami to Orlando. I had already planned to avail 6-7 days for the trip. Also I was aware of the fact that covering everything without any rest day would mean unnecessary exhaustion of monetary aspect as well as of vacation itself. Hence I settled down with below itinerary for my 7 day excursion to Orlando, Florida.
Day 1: Flying to Sanford from Indianapolis. Boarding the cruise for Bahamas from port Canaveral.
Cruise was primary factor of my whole Orlando visit. I chose 4 nights Bahamas Carnival cruise. More on that in next travelogue.
Day 2: Fun day on the ship.
Day 3: Visiting Nassau, capital of Bahamas.
Day 4: Port of call, Freeport. Another Bahamas island.
Day 5: Landing back to port Canaveral, Orlando. Visit to Kennedy space center.
Day 6: Visiting one park of Universal studio. Island of Adventure in my case.
Day 7: Visiting one park of Disneyland. Magical Kingdom in my case.
I’ll try to separate each day into travel blog each, encompassing various aspects such as prerequisites, to-do-list, not-to-do-list, expenses, things to carry, how, what and why of whatever I can think of along with lots of photos.
Your mileage and stretch can wary. So adopt whatever feel like doable for you if you are referring to my travelogue. Else enjoy the read.
PS: In the process, I will try to answer one of the universally fundamental question which was bothering humankind from day immemorial; which theme park is better, Disneyland or Universal studio ? I might not be in best position but I had my enough fill of rituals to move towards enlightenment. I will surely attain complete truth after more visits.
Anywhere in the world where any race or religion or cast fanatic takes violent supremacist step with gun and population start talking about psychological impact of interactive media such as gaming on children and young adults as if that is their fundamental right to get closure on such violent anarchy. Its old story; even ancient one when we thought of inception of shooter computer games. Let’s instead of political arguments, de-construct the whole scenario and focus the subject in different light. I would try to address “why” of the blame game and might in process raise more ominous view ( this post is in response to recent tragic violent shooting in new Zealand mosque in response to which one educated intellectual friend of me has pointed finger towards currently most popular battle arena game PUBG as victim in jocular fashion. It came as shock to me how people are perceiving games; even in jokes.)
Why computer games or movies or any other popular media.
“Because it’s there” – this famous quote from world famous Everest climber George Mallory can also work as an answer to our dilemma. It’s easy to blame popular media. And our minds are happy to blame abstract “cause” which can act as righteous step to all of the wrongs. Human minds are bad at comprehending chaos, especially of a scale of gun attack in public places. It represents chaos in otherwise “stable” system. Hence there is need to find settlement to ease the terror or fear. And popular media is readily available for that. Shooter games themselves act as shooting target with bulls eye.
Games are not conditioning environment
All the popular media comes with their governing restrictions either in name of issued age restriction certificates or as moral values when we consider impact of them over minors. Doesn’t matter if such restrictions are carried out strictly or not; games, movies, books etc. should be conceived as the mind influencing environment rather then mind conditioning. They don’t have power to brainwash. If shooting games could have such power then lot of people including me were, by this time, could have been brandishing guns in both hands and having our poor lives “blasted” out of proportion. But looks like after so much digital gun toting, I came out decent and even violence-averting in nature. And the same can be said for those whom I knew as long time dedicated computer gamers.
Child’s malleable mind is far better in fantasizing; no matter what. Given right catalyst, it can be molded with care into something superior. But what we are talking about is not product of any such exposure. Empathy is part of natural behavior expressed from eons old evolved genes. What we are seeing as violent retribution is part of heavily subdued brain with either life altering trauma or tight conditioning or brainwashing.
And when we are talking about conditioning, most frightful conditioning parents expose their child to is religion which not even have any governing body to issue any age restrictions. It is more potent and effective than any violent game nowadays. See any of those ancient religion tomes and scriptures and try to glean the direct or indirect form of violence present (towards non-believer or evil); you will be amazed by ferocity and content.
Why shooting is fun in games
The fact is, gamers worldwide are not actually enjoying the killing spree in games. They enjoy the “feel” of it. That is, games have already established virtual context and world which is in sync with killing “bad guys”. It’s already been established as safe environment. Players enjoy the tactical decision making or super power fantasy or reflexes or mastering challenges; which is far away then actual real world shootings. Evolution has already instilled aversion towards real blood or carnage. Even given the right context, players feel guilty over killing NPCs ( player with no role or context in games. In short, innocent) even in computer games. So any argument pointing towards computer games playing key role in introducing real world apathetic behavior is utterly hogwash.
What’s the ratio
How many gamers worldwide actually converted to homicidal maniac ? Or how many deranged killers are actually gamers ? I bet even though we come up with exact statistics, numbers are quite high if we asked the same question with some other general attributes such as how many killers have dogs or how many go to religious places or how many are single or ……
Is it that having dogs or no-dogs is killing factor ?? Absolutely foolish, right !! Then why games have such attention. Games get the disadvantage of being “special” apart from other common variables. Games are highly visible. They are unique. And have high attention grabbing visibility. And playing games is still not the norm, hence has to face scrutinized stare of the society over such incidents.
It’s time we need to reign our basic instincts and think rationally before generalizing.
Even though I’m predictably irregular with year end resolutions which were only put through proper observation during few initiated months of the new year and logarithmically dissolved into daily soup of chores by the time year ends; I can still count myself pretty overachiever while considering challenges related to reading. Reading has been emerged with renewed ferocity with each passing year. With end of the one more successful reading year 2018, here’s summary of good, bad and ugly with courtesy to goodreads.com for organizing it in accessible way with spiced-up stats.
As evident below, 2018 is the year with most number of completed reads of all time which is due to large numbers of graphic novels and comics.
Most popular read this year was, as expected, belongs to literary classics: Crime and Punishments from Fyodor Dostoyevsky which is in continuation to my ongoing tradition with Russian classics after Anna Karenina.
Let’s take the trip down the reading lane for past year and have some reminiscences of most special and most boring read.
1. Tomie by Junji Ito: Scary-cum-body horror mix is potent and effective. Weirdness is mutually offset-ed by Japanese manga presentation and horror heightened due to minimalistic but effective black & white clean art.
2. Miracleman Book 1: Collection of short stories told artistically in universe of Miracleman. Some are really strange and some allegorical considering Gaiman at the helm.
3. Origin by Dan Brown: Dan brown can still connects real location world-wide with real scientific research and some interwoven fictional tale with most famous “symbologist” doing what he is good at. But still Origin was balloon whose air is fizzling out as time passes. Still good for Dan Brown fans.
4. Swamp Thing Vol. 2: This years my Alan Moore read continuing brilliant Swamp Thing saga.
5. Patience: Time-travel story with emotional central plot. Bit muddled and not as good as Clowes’s Ghost World.
6.wytches: Completely new urban take on traditional witches with eye-popping color splatter art in the wake of Jackson Pollock.
7. Murder on the Orient Express: Foray into Agatha Christi’s world. I am fan of closed room mysteries and this is as good as I was looking forward to.
8.Fun Home: One of the best read of 2018 or of any year. Sharp, poignant and at the same time touching. Bachdel’s quest for exploring her complex sexual leaning along with relationship with her father, in turn makes her understand her father more profoundly. It is the tale which sounds more serious than the way its told.
9. Grindhouse: Cheap comic-con “earn” which was good considering value for money.
10. The Trip: One more new-stand pick-up fast read; picked up in Comic-con 2018.
11. Whiteout: Nice wintry chilling read.
12. The Alienist:Victorian age serial killing mystery set in Newyork – And I’m sold. Though it missed the mark of hitting the “Jack the Ripper” goal. Still readable for clever writing and historical research.
13. Summer of Night: Homage to Stephen King’s very popular “It” with very similar horror plot involving kids in some suburban US town. But its very good homage at that. Dan Simmons has uncanny ability to advance story through characterization. And that is very good sign of any famous author. Story take its own time to get into grooves, but that’s what the recipe of the good taste; let it be cooked on slow burn.
14. Harley Quinn Vol 1,2,3 (New 52): Dripping with feminism and bravura of style and art. Incorporating various artists for single story seamlessly is fun to read (and goggled over)
15.Maggie the Mechanic: One more title which celebrates the feminism with tale of band of girls in futuristic world where large complex machinery is the way of life and effective mechanics are reverential. Its collection of short stories, characterized by light weight tone of its nature even in the face of sheer calamity.
16. Crime and Punishment: Every year I shall indulge myself with one (or more) literary classics and I was flattened by last year’s Russian take of classics like Lolita and Anna Karenina. So continuing the trend, I attempted Fyodor Dostovesky. If the whole year reading list was consisted largely of comics and light read then it might be because of Crime and Punishment, as if I could not afford more serious read. It was dark, satirical and at the same time brilliantly translated as well as elaborated.
17. Preacher Book one: Garth Ennis’s pulls no stop in this ultra-violent offending story. Its good and serves what reader expected from such adult comic read.
18. Zero Hour: Short sci-fi story collection of the early comic golden age era. Some good, some thoughtful and some borderline geeky; but all entertaining.
19. The Outsider: Stephan King’s latest (but not best). Story is gripping and if it could have been 100 pages short than it would be more fun. Still lovely King experience all and all.
20. The Revolutionary Genius of Plants: Humankind actually not liking the spicy taste (spicy is not actually a taste belongs to primary tastes but sensation), we are addicted to it. And plants of pepper family has deliberately made us addictive. Interesting !! There is lot more in this revolutionary new book throwing new light aided by latest research. Excellent and enlightening.
21. Black sad: With popularity of Graphic novel medium arising immensely, aided by large number of adapted movies, some of the European gems are sipped to mainstream US market. Blacksad is one of the lot. Blacksad has to be seven course meal laid out for eyes. Excellent color filtered panels with water-color feel should leave you keep staring at each page for eternity. Noir crime drama is perfect match for such beautifully presented panels. Must read for anyone.
22. Four Color Fear: One more anthology of short campy horror tales from 50’s and 60’s decades. Not all are very enticing, but still comfy reads on wintry dark nights.
23. Sherlock The Great Game: Last season episode of very famous series Sherlock presented in Japanese manga style. Artist has done great job with sketches which resembles real characters of the series precisely.
24. A Study In Emerald: One more story referencing most famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Given the fact that Neil Gaiman has written this short, expect lot many other famous literary references and allusions. Not for everyone but Gaiman fans.
25. Magpie Murders: Anthony Horowitz has done some great job to revive the classic characters like Sherlock Holmes in House of Silk or James Bond in Trigger Mortis. Magpie murders was homage to Agatha Christi’s style of murder mystery. Though written well, for me, it was bogged down by its own set high expectation. Little vapid all and all.
26. The Troop: Story is waffer-thin. But you don’t read horror for only story. Story of band of children stranded at island with something inexplicable- sounds very familiar and scary. It is more of body horror and sometimes King-style snippets of news articles and interviews embedded between chapters, won’t have desired effect. But still good beach read all and all. P.S. Go for classic “Lord of the Flies” to which Troop pays homage.
Everything is composed of systems; interconnected and interacting. And each of this systems are designed and governed by specific set of rules. If you know the rules, you know the system. Sometimes rule-set can be exhaustively large and complex which will, in turn, increase the complexity of the system itself. Break it down to small chunk of systems and you find out more specific relevant rule-set for smaller systems. Our mind is evolved to understand such systems in peculiar way of creating the model of the system rather than actually solving rules by which it is governed. Let’s take example. Lionel Messi’s brain not always go into resolving friction equations or movement of round object in curvature to have quick pass or amazing goal; Or Federer’s mind won’t do all force formulas to quickly come up with number to use in back-end shot, nor their, or in such case anyone else, minds capable of finishing calculations on the fly. Minds just do what they supposed to do “as per learned model” which in turn needs regressive learn pattern.
Why I have elaborated so much was the phenomenon gamers worldwide face in their day-to-day gaming sessions. Games are most prolific “systems” which gamers learn to play. Each new game present new set of rules to learn. Game designers face most daunting task of devising the system driven by elaborated rule-set, make users learn them fast, mold their minds to think with provided rules and along with all;most sought accomplishment; make it all fun and enjoyable. Some games fail due to one or other of above. And some excel with the same. Let’s explore few of the games in my gaming life which has garnered the awe-inspiring amazement along with joy due to their unique appealing trait: novelty (in no particular order).
1. Braid ( Creator: Jonathan Blow, Artist: David Hellman )
There are puzzle platformer. There are excellent puzzle platformers. And there is Braid. Uniqueness of the Braid was not time-manupulation, but the way each level introduces new aspect based on time. Starting with fairly straightforward time reversal, Braid just pulled all kind of time-trickery in the each advancing level. One level adds time-unaffacted objects, while other introduces “time-ring”. And my favorite one where time moves when protagonist moves. Without spoiling much novelty (especially the last absolutely genius level), Braid has achieved cult status with its underlying deep philosophy which was fan-favorite discussion topic amongst various forums.
Also Braid had been the flagstone of revolution which has moved gamers focus on indie development like never before.
2. Her Story ( Creator & designer: Sam Barlow, Actress: Viva Seifert )
Gaming industry is always fascinated with idea of merging movies with gameplay from initiation of digital interactivity. FMV ( Full Motion Video) games were at some point considered as major step ahead while era was mostly composed of low res sprites and environments. Tex Murphy adventures or Phantasmagoria were few series which got attention for their novel FMV interactivity. Most recent Late Shift or partial FMV AAA title Quantum Break are testimony of gaming industry’s unabated love for integration of full motion video in games. But nothing has succeeded so profoundly as Her Story which has changed the idea of FMV gameplay. Best part of Her Story is that FMV seems the inevitable design aspect rather than just another “back of the box bullet-point”. Brainchild of sole person; Sam Barlow and exquisitely acted by Viva Seifert, Her Story puts you in shoes of investigator trying to glean the connection out of disjointed interrogation videos of old case. Not spoiling much, Her Story is addictive short campaign.
3. Untold Stories ( Developer: No Code, Publisher: Devolver Digital )
Most ancient genre of gaming which is again getting traction due to most innovative take like Untold stories on them; text adventures. Untold stories has coat of new graphic processing power but core element is text adventure. Short, precise and genuine ; Untold stories is pinnacle presenting “New wine in old bottle”.
4. Portal/Portal 2 ( Valve corporation )
In 2007, at the most ripening time to reap the popularity benefit, Valve released most audacious game bundle of all time called ” The Orange Box”. Riding high with Half-Life 2 and preceding episodic instalments, Orange Box was going to provide most value for money playtime to gamers. Valve Corporation knew it was going to be hit. But what it never gleaned was that the small title thrown in; almost like Santa’s small free present, along with other biggies in the Orange Box, called Portal, was going to steal the show and going to force Valve to cash in with its follow-up, Portal 2.
To say that Portal was ingenious first person puzzler is disservice to the game as whole. It was cleverly designed to incorporate Portal rules and way of overcoming them. Concept was simple enough to have ability to generate two portals on any (not all though) flat surfaces so as player passing through one emerges out of other. Throw in exemplary physics engine to take care of gravity and hence velocity out of other portal and you have sandbox rule set to play around.
Portal 2 has high expectations given the popularity of the first. But so rare the event in this world in any media has happened here also; second part surpassing the first. Once Portal 2 introduces the varying gels, rules got more complex and playful.
However intelligent gamers felt by solving the puzzles in Portal and Portal 2, one fact was appreciated by all that at the end game designers of both were true genius of all. After completing the game, if you look back you’ll realize how much complexity your brain has gone through and that also in very simple and fun way.