Life can often seem like a nasty, samsaric ritual. Almost every morning I wake up around 8am, take a shower, change the cat’s water, pour a cup of coffee and do the dishes before starting work. Every evening I take out my contacts, brush my teeth, wash my face and get into bed before falling asleep. These are the kind of things that we all just do and, for the most part, we do them mindlessly and automatically because they just have to be done.
Other parts of our day are usually far less predictable. Whether the spontaneity of a surprise phone call from an old friend or an email from a business client bears good or bad news, at the very least it colours our daily routines with the kind of random chance that makes life interesting (if not always enjoyable necessarily).
I play games — and I suspect a lot of people play games — because they also provide my days with that element of unpredictability. Taking part in an unfolding story or trying to win against a digital opponent makes for pretty engaging entertainment. Despite the fact that games, being constructs of cold hard programming, can only offer us a pre-set variety of outcomes (a variety that is always expanding as developers and technological engineers push the medium forward) they can give us a sense of being somewhere else, taking part in a world of chance — a world that can have more in common with the unpredictable parts of our days than the rote, habitual ones.
That isn’t always the case with Persona 3.
Continue reading Developing a Persona Part 2: The Daily Grind
The Persona series is revered, the third and fourth entries to the series being particularly adored. A lot of platitudes are tossed around about these games, including (but not limited to) bold claims like their being “saviours of the Japanese role-playing game.” Obviously this warrants investigation so, about two months after buying a PlayStation Vita and playing three actual Vita games on it, I ended up downloading the PSP version of Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3.
Now, a few hours in I’m willing to take a (self-inflicted gun)shot at trying to unpack just what it is that makes this game compelling to so many people.
Continue reading Developing a Persona Part 1: Time Management
The Shin Megami Tensei series is unique in that it combines the common tropes of Young Adult literature with something only video games are capable of: it places the player in a situation and asks them what they want to do. Some of the series’ games tend strongly towards the mundane (Persona) while others go off the deep end (Nocturne), but they all feature regular people in insane realities.
Devil Survivor, though, manages to blend the tropes of YA post-apocalyptic literature and the Megami Tensei series’ twisted view of the mundane. You embody a normal high school kid, and the game tells you demons are real, the city of Tokyo is locked down, and you’re going to die tomorrow. It tells you that and watches how you react.
Continue reading So You’re Going to Die in Tokyo: Devil Survivor