Can Music Make the Game?

With as many games as I’ve played, one might think that I’d be more into gaming soundtracks than I am. Which is to say I’m not at all into gaming soundtracks. At least not to the point that I have them filling up my iPod. But the soundtrack to Fable breaks that mold. And as I round up work on Fable Anniversary, I’m reminded why it’s one of the only game soundtracks that I do own. More on this and other musical recollections are here in this United We Game post.

United We Game

We all know how important music is in video games. Sometimes, a game’s soundtrack is a character in and of itself, bringing life to a game in ways that a character can’t. Sometimes, a game’s soundtrack plays a supporting role by imbuing scenes with emotion, being a presence without overwhelming the action. Sometimes, a game’s soundtrack can be nearly nonexistent, popping up only when absolutely necessary in order to make the players react. And, no doubt, there are games without soundtracks. When done right, the lack of music plays a key role in forcing the player to focus on the game itself. When done wrong, lack of music in a game can make it feel hollow and incomplete.

So a game and its soundtrack often go hand in hand. We play great games and are rewarded by great soundtracks. But could it ever be that the soundtrack itself is the…

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Play or Pass: Super Mario 64

Welcome to the next post in my year-long series “Play or Pass” that takes on the proverbial “must before death” theme with video games. Every other week I will be covering one or two games from “32 Video Games You Have To Play Before You Die,” a list compiled by BuzzFeed based on a reader poll. I will not be critiquing the list itself, but rather I’ll be discussing each game or games in whatever manner feels fitting and will attempt to answer a couple simple questions: Have I played [insert game name here]? If yes, do I consider it a “must” and why? If no, do I want to play the game before I die? I’ll be going through the games in the order in which they appear on the BuzzFeed list. Good? Good. Let’s get on with the games!


Week twenty-three: (29) Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 cover art © Nintendo

Everyone. Should. Play. This. Game.

Have I played Super Mario 64?
Yes.

If yes, then do I consider it a “must?”
Yes.

If no, then do I want to play the game before I die?
N/A

The end.

… … …

Oh, did you think there was going to be more? Well, joke’s on you buddy, because there isn’t. There’s no point in continuing on any further because…how is this not a must-play game? It simply is. It’s Super Mario 64 for chrissakes! It’s the game-changing title that annihilated the gaming field of the time and solidified Nintendo’s reign among consoles in the 1990s. It’s the game that normalized 3D graphics. It’s the game that gave players a new ways of and freedom to explore. It’s the game that showed us a whole new dimension of the Mario-verse, and one to which future games would be perennially compared. It’s a magical, brilliant, varied, and complex game that works on all levels, from mechanics to controls to gameplay.

It’s that game.  It’s THE game. It’s fucking Super Mario 64.

… … …

Alright, so I’m biased. A LOT biased. So how about I take a step back for a moment and look at Super Mario 64 from another point of view. Because as rosy as I might paint the game today, it had, and still has…issues. Or…maybe I have issues. Either way, Super Mario 64 isn’t flawless. And in this case I can’t help but bring my own biases in because, well…they affect every game I play, the great ones and the awful ones.

But before getting into those, I think I can safely say that if one general gripe about the game remains true to this day, is it the game’s camera. Problems with camera mechanics can plague games even to this day. And though Super Mario 64’s camera was a step in a decent direction (using the c-pad on the N64 controller to move it in, out, left, and right), it only helped so much. And sometimes, it was no help at all as you attempted to maneuver Mario in his brand new 3D world. I remember getting stuck multiple times (particularly on Tiny-Huge Island) in spots where I just couldn’t position the camera correctly. In most cases, I ended up with Mario leaping to his death because I couldn’t judge distances properly. In those moments, Super Mario 64 was anything but enjoyable.

Now, moving onto those more personal issues, the most extreme ones that I harbor against games are flying and racing. I dislike both immensely. Mind you, racing in games and racing games are two completely separate beasts. Racing games make me feel powerful even when I’m a terrible driver. Racing in games makes me feel like shit…always. As for flying, I’m simply awful at navigating flight in games, from sorta actual flying, like in the Banjo-Kazooie games, to gliding, like in the Batman: Arkham games, and, yes, in Super Mario 64.

So first off, racing in games. Is it just me or do racing minigames seem like they are always set up for the player to fail? And not just fail once, but fail over and over and over again until one feels like throwing one’s controller out the window and onto a few unsuspecting yet annoying squirrels? Super Mario 64 contains three races (that I know of), with the most notably difficult one being the Big Penguin Race of Cool, Cool Mountain. I hate that one the most, but I also hate them all. Any racing minigame that can’t be avoided automatically triggers my anger button. and not even the spritely, bouncy, and happy world of Super Mario 64 could quell it. Not then, not today. Oh, I have beaten that goddamn Big Penguin and his stupid penguin face several times, but each time has always been a rage-fraught affair, and that’s despite the fact that I could practically draw the track in my sleep.

As for flying…okay, look, I get it. I get why the Wing Cap is in the game. And I get that the gliding mechanic in the game is actually better than it is in many modern games, but…I still hate it. And I especially hate it when hitting targets or gathering items has to be involved. And there are several times in Super Mario 64 where one must collect a Wing Cap and go soaring into the skies to fly through hoops or gather things and such. I guess I should mention that me and flying don’t get along in 3D games. I have issues with “flight” in 2D games, sure, but they aren’t as heightened as the maddening feelings that overcome my psyche when dealing with flight in 3D environments.

And while we’re on the topic of crappy shit in Super Mario 64, how about that quicksand in Shifting Sand Land? Like, that shit didn’t even give you a millisecond to escape should you accidentally take a wrong step…or, ahem, glide. And, omfg, what about timing the search for coins in the underwater chests/shells in the Dire, Dire Docks level?! I mean, between balance you had to achieve between waiting for them to open and your air supply was nearly fucking unobtainable! And lest we forget that shitty elevated platform thing you had to use in the Hazy Maze Cave to get all eight coins! Goddamn if that wasn’t just the worst. And…oh, oh, OH! Anything in Snowman’s Land. I hate snow and ice in Mario games. Just fucking HATE IT.

And…and…AND!

… … …

Why the hell would anyone want to play Super Mario 64? It’s the worst!

Except…it isn’t. It really isn’t. Yes, the game makes you work for Every. Single. One. of it’s beautiful 120 stars, but the reward for success feels so good. The fact that I hate Big Penguin with every fiber of my being only makes beating him feel even better. And no, that might not be the most mentally proper way with which to deal with such a thing in a game, but it worked (and still works) for me. The game truly challenged everyone, from long-time Mario fans to new players, and it did so with some big hurdles to overcome, the first and foremost being creating a fun 3D environment that players wanted to be in. A Mario game is nothing without its levels, and Super Mario 64 offered some of the most creatively designed ones around. Sure, I might hate flying and racing and quicksand and swimming and all sorts of other things in games, but those things aren’t the point of the experience. The point is, can a game include all those things and still make players come to meet the challenge multiple times over many years? With Super Mario 64, that answer is undoubtedly yes.

So my answers stand; it’s a “must.”


Still…since I started up the hate train, why not continue on…in the name of fun, of course. What are some of your biggest dislikes/complaints about Super Mario 64?

Belatedly, let’s talk about Red Dead Redemption 2

Red Dead Redemption is one of my most favorite games to date. (It’s not perfect, but it’s perfect for me!) So when news hit a month back that a sequel to this brilliant game was finally in the works, I just had to pay attention. In this post I wrote for for United We Game, I jumped in the frothy waters of hope for what I’d like to see in RDR2. Granted, a little bit more about the game has been revealed since this first trailer was released, but generally, we’re still in the dark. Surely the light of the Old West will shine brightly on our consoles again soon.🙂

United We Game

Late last month, Rockstar dropped its first teaser trailer for the brand new Red Dead Redemption 2. A series of persistent rumors had popped up some months before hinted that a sequel to the very popular Red Dead Redemption was in the work. It seems that, thankfully, they turned out to be true!

In a way, I feel like I’ve been playing Red Dead Redemption for a several years. I first played it in 2013, and then I played through it again, fully, earlier this year. But during the between years, I’ve played the game sporadically, just to pick up missed side quests, do a little treasure hunting, or spend a little time meandering through its wondrous landscapes on horseback. The game is just one of my favorites, from the story to the music to the environments, and I simply need to revisit it every now and then.

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I do it for the thirty who care

Yesterday marked my five-year blogging anniversary. That’s quite something, huh? I know it is for me, because I don’t know that I ever intended for this blog to go on for so long. Not that five years is a long time in the grand scheme of history, but it’s long enough to warrant some kind of something. Which is what I’m doing here now…I guess?

In the past, I’ve marked these anniversaries in various ways, and this year I think I’d like to chat a bit about stats. Blog stats, that is. This isn’t a topic I’ve broached here before because it’s never been, in my mind, worth discussing. I’m not here for the stats. I’m here for me, and for you, and that’s all. But recently a friend asked about blogging, using WordPress, etc. I was more than happy to go on and on about all the good stuff blogging offers, until the question of statistics arose. Specifically, the question, “how many hits do you get a day?” Continue reading “I do it for the thirty who care”

Play or Pass: Mario Party 2

Welcome to the next post in my year-long series “Play or Pass” that takes on the proverbial “must before death” theme with video games. Every other week I will be covering one or two games from “32 Video Games You Have To Play Before You Die,” a list compiled by BuzzFeed based on a reader poll. I will not be critiquing the list itself, but rather I’ll be discussing each game or games in whatever manner feels fitting and will attempt to answer a couple simple questions: Have I played [insert game name here]? If yes, do I consider it a “must” and why? If no, do I want to play the game before I die? I’ll be going through the games in the order in which they appear on the BuzzFeed list. Good? Good. Let’s get on with the games!


Week twenty-two: (28) Mario Party 2

Mario Party 2 cover art © Nintendo

If you’ve followed me for awhile, you may have noticed that I tend to be a little down on multiplayer. That’s just me. And only me. At this stage in life, I’m simply in a place where I prefer single-player games. But, as I’ve likely alluded to before, my gaming life wasn’t always like that. In fact, I grew up playing games with others — siblings, friends, second cousins first removed — and I enjoyed gaming that way. When a game called for two or more people, I found two or more people to play with. When the game didn’t, but we still had a group of players, we did the ol’ “pass the controller” routine. That’s how it was. It really wasn’t until I was introduced to Super Metroid, and around the same time, PC gaming, that I became interested in a more solitary style of play.

Continue reading “Play or Pass: Mario Party 2”

A Collaborative Look at the New Nintendo Switch

So how about all the gaming news of the past few weeks! Perhaps nothing hit harder at the end of last month than the reveal of the Nintendo Switch (once the NX). Could this remarkable device be the thing that will revive Nintendo in the console market, or will it go the way of the Wii U? Over on United We Game, The Duck, Hatm0nster, and I gave our initial thoughts on the Switch in this roundtable post.

What do you think of the Switch? Savior or stinker?

United We Game

If you’ve been following along with recent gaming news, you’ll no doubt be aware of the fact that the mystery of the Nintendo NX has finally been revealed as Nintendo’s newest console, the Nintendo Switch, named for its ability to, well, switch between a handheld and a console.  If you haven’t already seen it, you can find the trailer here:

Video from Youtube User: Nintendo

Pretty interesting, no?  Well, we here at UWG certainly thought so.  To celebrate the Switch’s reveal, we shall be providing you all with our initial thoughts on Nintendo’s most recent innovation in a special collaboration post.  (And, as always, please provide your own thoughts in the comments below!)

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I Am Not A Novelty

The following post originally appear on United We Game, 31 July 2014.


Image by Flickr user Hen3K Hen3KImage by Flickr user Hen3k Hen3k

I see you. Staring. Staring at me. You think I don’t notice? You’re right across from me on this train; you’re not invisible.

All I want to do is play Pokemon on my way to work in peace. Is it the tablet? The fact that I’m using the tablet like a game controller instead of for reading, which is what women are supposed to do with tablet-like things, right? Read? Read and not play games? Because women don’t play games?

Take a look around. Nearly everyone, men and women, on this train is looking down at their electronic devices, and I can guarantee you that the majority of them are playing something. Because we play games. I am not a novelty. We all play games.

Continue reading “I Am Not A Novelty”

Play or Pass: Street Fighter II

Welcome to the next post in my year-long series “Play or Pass” that takes on the proverbial “must before death” theme with video games. Every other week I will be covering one or two games from “32 Video Games You Have To Play Before You Die,” a list compiled by BuzzFeed based on a reader poll. I will not be critiquing the list itself, but rather I’ll be discussing each game or games in whatever manner feels fitting and will attempt to answer a couple simple questions: Have I played [insert game name here]? If yes, do I consider it a “must” and why? If no, do I want to play the game before I die? I’ll be going through the games in the order in which they appear on the BuzzFeed list. Good? Good. Let’s get on with the games!


Week twenty-one: (27) Street Fighter II

In the BuzzFeed list upon which this series is based, its says the following about this week’s game:

Street Fighter 2 is the first game that made the arcade feel like a real battleground.

Unfortunately, I can’t speak to that reference personally; I never played Street Fighter II in the arcade. (Yes II. I can’t use plain ol’ numbers when referring to SF games. It’s just not right!) In fact, I can’t speak to anything about Street Fighter II because I never played it. But! I played later iterations of the game, namely Street Fighter II Turbo, Super Street Fighter II, and Hyper Street Fighter II. And while I’ve written about this favorite series of fighting games, here and elsewhere, I now have visual proof!

Continue reading “Play or Pass: Street Fighter II”