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It's Time for Developers to Stop with the Illusion of Choice Based Games

It's Time for Developers to Stop with the Illusion of Choice Based Games

It's definitely a lot to ask of game developers, but I think gamers have earned it.

Every game has a budget, and the content always becomes a question of quality vs quantity. Some games do have very different endings based on your choices, but those tend to have a lot less voice acting, plot, and cutscenes dedicated to each, or just very few choices. It becomes a lot easier if you do away with voice acting and fancy graphics, but that results in a fairly niche product these days.

Having played games like The Walking Dead, Mass Effect, and Life is Strange in the last few years, and having played numerous other games with the same theme/mechanic of "choice" here and there I'm starting to feel as if even though the genre of choice based games is growing and becoming more popular each year, it isn't actually growing as an art form in the development community.

Games like The Walking Dead are first and foremost trying to tell a story. They're not games about replayability, they're going for something just a bit different than watching a really engaging TV show. All the little choices along the way are about defining your character, becoming your character. They may or may not actually change the surrounding world. Are they story-based games, or choice-based?

Almost every choice-based game that's come out this year or previously relies on the illusion of choice and the illusion of freedom and power in the game’s world. This illusion can only carry the game so far. While these games offer you "hard", often emotionally testing decisions to make, your decisions can rarely have any real lasting effect on the outcome of the story. The only reason decisions are hard to make in any context is because they have consequences. When decisions don't actually have any tangible consequence, they lose power over us. They disengage the audience from being emotionally involved in the content.

For example;

  • Whether you try to save Bob from the zombie mob, or save Jim from the zombie mob, Bob will always end up dying.
  • Whether or not you blame Steve for the crime or blame Perry, whichever one is the true criminal still pulls off one last murder.
  • Whether or not you choose to study extra hard for that test, or break into the school swimming pool at 2AM, you still get a B minus on the test.

Replaying any "choice" based game doesn't ever show you how differently things could have turned out if only you had chosen differently. Most stick to a rigid storyline that allows for little deviation or player intervention. And that makes a lot of sense from the developer's point of view: allowing the player to radically change future events in their game would basically mean writing a whole different story, one that may never be played by a large percent of the game's audience. This diamond based story structure, where you start and end at the same point while the journey there can change, is not the most empowering form of storytelling for the gamer. While you still have the opportunity to make a few decisions, your decisions do not carry much consequence, so what is the point at all?

I think a big problem is how mechanical games are with how they treat completion. They overload you with information that guides players every step of the way, and in the end it diminishes the sense of exploration and choice. Open world games have lists for quest and side quests, with pointers and markers showing you exactly where everything is. In GTA, every mission is delineated down to the last step, which essentially cuts off player agency aside from those few canned instances of “choice.” Despite the game being open world, it ends up feeling no more unrestrictive than a corridor shooter.

Deus Ex gives you choice without you knowing. Generally, you’re thrown into a level, and the onus is on the player to discover and engage with NPCs and the environment to complete and improve your completion of a mission. There’s so much detail in every level and casual choice in every mission that it feels both dynamic and organic in how it presents choice. Better yet, there’s so much to be missed that consequent playthroughs have players discovering a whole bevy of things they never expected. You start to realize and wonder about all the different ways to do things. What if I don’t listen to him and run away? What if I kill that important NPC hours before the boss battle with him/her?

Furthermore, it doesn’t incorporate a morality system, it doesn’t punish you for playing the game a particular way, and because of this, choices are made based on the predilections of the player, not artificial systems imposed by the game that are tied to rewards. Players are motivated by their own reaction and input.

And yet, I think games that rely on choice as their main gimmick are required to put in that effort - to write a story not everyone will choose to play - in order for it to be a worthy game.

One example for a way to make games with significant, consequential decisions in a game could be Front Mission 3 for the original PlayStation. Front Mission 3 had one seemingly insignificant choice at the start of the game that led to two completely different campaigns spanning dozens of hours each. Each campaign put you on a different side of the same war, which led you to meet new party members, fight against some party members of the other path and overall gave you a very different perspective on events. How did they do that? By having most of the story be told via dialogue boxes, text-only and only having 3D graphics for the small cutscenes immediately before and after a battle.

It completely demolishes the replay value of these games when you find out that none of your choices really mattered - and I don't mean in a philosophic or spiritual way that says "ooh, your fate was always to come to the lighthouse at the end of the game and die tragically!" I think too many games that know they rely on the illusion of choice try to use "fate" as a plot device to hide the fact that they put less effort than was required into making a game actually based around the idea of choice.

Developers are too focused on length of play as opposed to quality of play. A game doesn’t have to be 50 hours for it to be worth the money. Leave the world open to the player without the restrictions and without the complete disclosure of where everything is. Let the game be beatable in 2, 10, 50 hours. Let the player decide how much time they want to spend in the world and how they tackle it. I’ll keep coming back to the game if it has enough there to offer me a unique play through another time around.

If we can't start to offer players choices that affect the future of their story more significantly, we need to stop making so many choice-based games.

What Might To Expect From Star Wars Episode 8

What Might To Expect From Star Wars Episode 8

Episode VII marks a triumphant return to form for the franchise -- one that also seems to lay the framework for how future entries could expand upon the series' lore.  (Rumors and Spoilers within)

Is the killer app dead?

Is the killer app dead?

Is the console killer app dead? See what John has to say about the current generation of gaming and console exclusives. 

Fargo "Before the Law" Review

Fargo "Before the Law" Review

Noah Hawley continued to demonstrate his literary and cinematic genius with his superb writing and picturesque directing with the latest installment of FX's critical darling. This episode mimicked a Western theme with the numerous showdowns throughout the episode with so many characters receiving his or her opportunity to stand out from his or her opposite. Although the plot remained sedentary with little actually occurring, viewers received revealing scenes for each character that exhibited new and intriguing traits. Also, Hawley dropped another hint at aliens with the light beam above the butcher shop at the conclusion of the episode with Orson Wells' voice over of the War of the Worlds. The trajectory of this part of the storyline remains unclear, but viewers most likely will go along for the ride with Hawley's terrific writing.

First, the Gerhardt clan faced the problem teased in the premiere with the incoming Kansas City crime syndicate. The problem has exploded in terms of the family's leadership with patriarch Otto suffering a stroke in the premiere, so Dodd and his mother Floyd have a war on their hands against the other. Dodd plotted find Rye in order to gain Rye's support for Dodd as head of the family business while mother Floyd wanted Rye found because he represented a potential loose end for the Gerhardt's operations. These selfish interests of the different family members set up a major conflict in the story that will likely result in death. All members of the family sided with Floyd, but Dodd insisted that his time has arrived to run the operation. In typical Fargo fashion, subtle humor dominated the showdown between Dodd and Floyd at the dinner table as Dodd emphatically claimed that he should be the head of the operations, yet his mother commanded him to eat his food and to remain quiet as she essentially scolded him. Thinly veiled sequence such as this makes Fargo such a great show.

Jesse Plemmons as Ed and Kirsten Dunst as Peggy

Jesse Plemmons as Ed and Kirsten Dunst as Peggy


Moving on to everyone's favorite murderous couple, Peggy and Ed handled the aftermath of Rye's death in which Peggy routinely attended the salon to work while Ed stayed put in order to erase the mess of his struggle with Rye in the garage as well as dispose of his body. Peggy's encounter at the salon really yielded no significant moments aside from the obvious tension with her boss. Her interaction later in the episode with her boss substantiated theories of her homosexuality as several critics and fans noticed last episode through her aloofness at dinner with Ed. Of course, this tension may have resulted from running over Rye and bringing his shattered body home, but Ed mentions throughout dinner that he wants to be closer to Peggy and have kids and actually have sex. Peggy seemed to be against his ideal life of tranquility with her; therefore, the idea of Peggy perhaps being a lesbian arose, an idea which this episode has added more evidence. Before discussing Ed, the direction of Hawley with his juxtaposition of Peggy and Ed with their reactions to the aftermath of Rye's murder created a striking portrait of their minds. The abrupt insertions of Peggy hitting Rye and Ed fighting Rye demonstrated how these traumatic events are still very much in the minds of the characters. Therefore, at the end of the episode, the tense showdown between Lou and Ed created such great tension as Ed frantically attempted to hide the fact that he was chopping Rye's body in the back of the butcher shop.

Bokeem Woodbine as Mike Milligan

Bokeem Woodbine as Mike Milligan


Finally, due to the late date of this review, the showdown between Mike Milligan and Hank will be the last item of discussion. This riveting standoff provided such a great criticism of the world today where so many ridiculous events occur on a daily basis. Milligan says that this encounter is truly an anomaly because both men were able to have a tense but rational conversation without anyone performing an rash actions. Milligan looks to be an intimidating force this season and hopefully lasts the whole season in a fashion similar to Lorne Malvo from last season.

Thanks for reading. Apologies for the late review, but our reviews for this week's epsiodes for Fargo and The Leftovers should be up before the next installments of each series on Monday and Sunday. Come back for more content. Follow me on Twitter @mlozano2 and have a great day.

Fargo "Waiting For Dutch" Season Premiere Review

Fargo "Waiting For Dutch" Season Premiere Review

After last year's excellent first season on FX, many critics and viewers wondered if Fargo showrunner and head writer Noah Hawley can possibly top the first season. Well, "Waiting for Dutch" is any indication, Fargo's sophomore season will surpass its first. The top notch writing paired with a diverse and talented ensemble cast has Fargo fans salivating for more. The writing has a natural mix of humor and darkness that provides the familiar tone present in the film and the first season. Somehow Hawley manages to make the bland Midwest setting into its own character with it own unique ambience. The premiere does so much well, that one should expect another Emmy quality season from Fargo.

From the opening scene, this awkward sense of calmness pervades throughout the scene with the two men talking about Dutch, also known as Ronald Reagan to most folks at home. In a brilliant bit, they touch upon a significant issue of the time with the American Indian Movement. The director speaks to his Indian actor with subtle racist remarks that make the entire conversation awkward for the two men and, most importantly, the viewers. The subtle humor plugged into the conversation seems small with a background actor asking for a blanket and the director himself saying that he understands the struggle because he is Jewish. Meanwhile, everyone on set and in front of the television screens is waiting for Dutch, just as the episode's title suggests. Perhaps there is a deeper meaning that relates to the change Americans awaited with Jimmy Carter out of the presidency and the change that was to occur with the Democrats out of the White House. Surely, Noah Hawley's scene contains much more than meets the eye, especially because it establishes the 1970s setting and acts as the first scene for the entire season.

Kieran Culkin as the young Rye Gerhardt

Kieran Culkin as the young Rye Gerhardt

Moving on from the opening scene, the show introduces the Gerhardt boys Dodd, the oldest, and Rye, the youngest, who argue over Rye's role in the family business. The conversation shows that family comes first for the Gerhardts and that everyone needs to put in his (or her) work in the business. However, Rye does not agree with Dodd and responds, "That's like Jupiter telling Pluto, 'Hey,you're a planet, too.'" Dodd's attempt to make Rye feel like an integral member to the business fails, so Dodd tears down poor Rye and compares his younger brother to the comic strip in a piece of bubblegum that everyone discards. Next, the show introduces the entire Gerhradt clan that runs a family drug business. The Gerhardts face a problem from an incoming drug outfit attempting to swallow up the business while tragedy strikes at the most inopportune time as Gerhardt patriarch Otto suffers a stroke. In addition, an impending power struggle in the family looms between Gerhardt matriarch Floyd and eldest son Dodd.

The major catalyst of the episode and, most likely, the season is Rye's rampage in the diner as he tried to force the judge to change her decision on a court case. During their exchange, the judge provides a detailed and memorable account of Job and the Devil as a metaphor for the situation she and Rye are in at the moment. After she defends herself against Rye with bug spray, Rye's shooting spree claims three casualties. The entire diner sequence really is a work of art as the camera allows viewers to focus on the stark contrast of the blood against the vanilla milkshake or the snow as well as the exterior shots of Rye shooting the waitress in the diner. Then the situation becomes very weird as Rye witnesses a UFO! Just the inclusion of aliens in such a grounded world really demonstrates the confidence Fargo carries to include such a shocking twist to its already complex true crime story. However, Fargo is so exquisite that critics and viewers have accepted the UFO sighting as a natural element of the mysterious American Midwest that is so rarely portrayed on television. Back to the story, Rye wanders into the middle of the road while watching the UFO while a speeding car hits him after the UFO's departure.

Ted Danson as Sheriff Hank Larsson (left) and Patrick Wilson as Lou Solverson (right)

Ted Danson as Sheriff Hank Larsson (left) and Patrick Wilson as Lou Solverson (right)

Following the big diner showdown, young Lou Solverson and Sheriff Hank Larsson show off their police work. Lou meticulously and methodically examines the crime scene. He frighteningly recounts the events almost perfectly except for Rye's fate. However, Lou's one flaw in the investigation is his manipulation of the facts to fit a specific story in his head while Hank offers little resistance aside from questioning how Rye's shoe managed to hang on the tree. This calculated approach from Lou creates an uneasy tension because he has no idea how huge this murder scene is in its relevance to the impending crime family war in the Midwest hinted at the conclusion of the episode.

Finally, the complicated storyline of Fargo manages to reach innocent married couple Peggy and Ed, played by Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemmons, respectively. Something dubious resonated int he atmosphere because Peggy clearly acted strangely at the dinner table. At first, Ed's talk of settling down as owner of the butcher shop with multiple children upset Peggy, perhaps, because Peggy is not fully invested in heir marriage. However, further patience revealed that Rye was indeed still alive in the garage after Peggy rammed him with the car. The struggle between Ed and Rye really worked well because the viewers already understand why each man is fighting to the death. Ed wants to protect his vision for his family while Rye constantly tries to prove his value, as his brother mentions earlier, as man who can handle a larger role in his family's business. Ed kills the heavily wounded Rye with many questions to ask Peggy. However, Peggy is mind-numbingly naive as she really struggles to explain the situation to her husband, but a series of different shots discloses that Peggy was totally calm with her knowledge about Rye. She desires change in her life, so she uses this murder event as a means to persuade Ed to move out West but to no avail. Consequently, she convinces Ed to cover up the murder. Her decision to hide the body reinforces the notion that she wants some type of change in her life, but, unfortunately, Peggy and Ed are not prepared to handle the severe consequences of Rye's death and the horrible events surely to follow.

Overall, this episode somehow exceeded every aspect of the first season in terms of humor, suspense, direction, atmosphere, etc. Season 2 surely looks to be a treat for viewers everywhere. Touching on the final scene very briefly, Joe Bulo's cold and calculating presentation to the head members of the rival crime syndicate produced such an exciting yet chilling vibe for the show due to the men in the room. Each man reflects Joe Bulo: cold, calculating, efficient. This meeting is a highly organized business attempting to tear down the mom and pop crime family of the Gerhardts. Hawley mentioned how big corporations invading mom and pop businesses will play a significant role in the story. This scene might be related to Hawley's tease. Fargo Season 2 is more complicated but better than the first and will be great for the next 9 weeks on FX.

As always, thanks for reading. Write down your thoughts on the episode in the comment section. Look back here for a new review next week. Follow me on Twitter @mlozano2 and the site @nerdcavenetwork.

The Leftovers "Off the Ramp" Review

The Leftovers "Off the Ramp" Review

Wow! What an amazing episode to follow last week's excellent entry into the sophomore season for a show that received a fair amount of criticism for its overly depressing tone. The Leftovers has increased in quality each week since its premiere. One concern looms in the air in that each episode so far has focused mainly on a few characters whereas last season the majority of the episodes touched on the lives of every character from Kevin to Jill to Meg to Patti and to many others. Once all these characters converge on the screen in the same episode, something truly beautiful surely will occur in order to definitively claim this year's top spot for television shows.

Anyways, this episode followed the stories of Laurie and Tommy in the aftermath of last season's finale. The mother son combo has built a small but seemingly effective operation in which they attempt to lure fragile spirits away from the hands of the Guilty Remnant. Laurie has put her past career as a therapist into practice yet again to help reintroduce damaged people into the world that they abandoned for the Guilty Remnant. Basically, the operation involves Tommy infiltrating each Guilty Remnant chapter in order to find any individual who exhibits signs of pain such as sobbing while cleaning dishes in Susan's case or unwillingly giving up a watch as in Howard's case. On the other hand, his mother rehabilitates these individuals with a loving approach in which she provides cots, toilet paper, and clothing for each person as soon as he or she enters the therapy session room. Laurie stays with each person to provide some comfort and guidance while she furiously types on her laptop to complete her book on the evils of the Guilty Remnant's practices. This entire process, by the way, affects only one person, if Tommy and Laurie are lucky, as viewers later discover is not always the case. However, much sacrifice between Tommy and Laurie has touched the several people they have managed to help.

Before breaking down Tommy and Laurie, a few minor storylines provided many thought-provoking, interesting, and truly devastating outcomes. First, Meg returned to the show as an apparently high ranking member of the Guilty Remnant. She commanded the members who kidnapped Tommy with such ease and strength that she clearly wields some type of leadership role in the Guilty Remnant's operations. Her relatively brief appearance provided two truly shocking moments. First, she essentially raped Tommy who was handcuffed inside the truck and was powerless to whatever plans Meg had in mind. Tommy seemed to enjoy Meg's actions eventually, but this scene is quite shocking considering that members of the Guilty Remnant deny themselves of all worldly pleasures. After this chain of events, the male members doused Tommy in gasoline before Meg frighteningly stared at Tommy with an imminent threat of setting him afire. (Side Note: Great acting from Liv Tyler to give such a stoic performance in such crucial scenes for both her and Chris Zylka's characters.) After her decision not to burn him, she remarks, "Tell your mom Meg says hello." This thinly veiled threat truly affects Tommy later in the episode when he breaks down in front of his mother over the torture he endured as an undercover member of this sadistic cult.

Liv Tyler as Meg

Liv Tyler as Meg

Now, the truly devastating story in this entire episode is Susan's redemption and destruction. Susan abandoned her family for the Guilty Remnant for a few months, but Tommy managed to spot her sadness and bring her to his mother. She readjusted herself in order to enter the real world yet again, as her reunion with her husband and son provided such a poignant moment for the show that definitely evoked happiness in viewers everywhere. (Honestly, I personally cried a little at such a touching scene with an amazing score. Props to Max Richter, the man in charge of the score.) Therefore, one can understand any viewer's sadness at the heartbreaking twist in which Susan crashes into a truck; consequently, her actions claimed the lives of her, her husband, and her young son. As Tommy mentions, "She [Susan] was fucked up." Unfortunately, she faced numerous problems in her life while she also lived an extended period of time in loneliness in her stay with the Guilty Remnant. This powerful moment stings viewers, but it also helps them realize that life spirals out of control at times where some people, unfortunately, feel that the only viable option is death. This outcome should never be a solution because anyone can find an outlet to speak about their feelings, yet the sad reality is that some individuals do not find these services or that friend or that loved one in time. The Leftovers punched its viewers with a painful dose of reality and exhibited how such a tragic conclusion damages many other people.

Shifting to Tommy, whom this review has already mentioned several times, he reveals his "powers" that he received from Holy Wayne. Towards the end of the episode, he pleads to his mom that they need to offer something to the people they save because those people have huge gaps of emptiness within themselves after the habits and influences of the Guilty Remnant vanish. Therefore, his solution is to provide that comforting hug to individuals just as Holy Wayne provided millions of people. Tommy wants these people to believe in something. His gift provides a sense of hope and unburdens the stress in each person's life. Although his gift may seem manipulative or dishonest, his reasons for his lie merit a legitimate excuse because of the positive impact he will have on people's lives, especially if his arc follows a similar trajectory as Wayne's story arc last season.

Amy Brenneman as Laurie Garvey

Amy Brenneman as Laurie Garvey

Finally, Laurie provided an outstanding episode that undeniably has viewers cheering for her endeavors this season. She is such a wonderful person and, excuse the language, a badass. She steals back her laptop from the landlord of the office building for her book. And, merely minutes later, she runs over two Guilty Remnant members with her car to the sound of loud music blasting away as she escapes the scene. Laurie represents courage and freedom because she battles for what she thinks is right. Her encounter with the publisher for her book exhibits these qualities as she strangles the publisher for his unwarranted criticism of her book, an action which may have been warranted because he clearly did not read the book very carefully. He called Laurie a whack job and lunatic during her tenure as a brainwashed member of the silent cult. Laurie's actions may seem extreme, but she defends herself and fights for Jill and all the other individuals throughout the world under the trance of the Guilty Remnant. Finally, her breakdown with Tommy demonstrates the tremendous burden crushing her shoulders with her book, patients, son, financial problems, and much more. Laurie definitely deserves some type of award. (Here's an idea. How about voters award Amy Brenneman an Emmy for her magnificent performance in this episode? Truly, an Emmy worthy effort in this episode alone from Amy.)

Some final notes include the beautiful music from Max Richter that appropriately prepared the mood for each scene without the use of any actual songs such as the first two episodes of this season. The writing was top notch as is expected with The Leftovers. One great quote from the episode is "I love my book." This response is so genuine and moving because Laurie is an amazing woman who speaks her mind as seen when she scratched and clawed to protect the spirit of her book. The Leftovers is developing into  this year's best show with yet another tremendous installment in an already hauntingly beautiful series.

Thanks for reading. Apologies for the late review, but I will try my best to be more punctual next week. Look forward to a Fargo review by Thursday for an even better episode than the premiere. Come back for more content. Follow me on Twitter @mlozano2 and have a great day. 

The Leftovers "A Matter of Geography" Review

The Leftovers "A Matter of Geography" Review

Justin Theroux as Kevin Garvey and Carrie Coon as Nora Durst

Justin Theroux as Kevin Garvey and Carrie Coon as Nora Durst

 

After last week's very weird yet welcomed departure from the Garvey family until the final fifteen minutes of the premiere, The Leftovers focused solely on the Garvey family for one of the best hours of television this year. "A Matter of Geography" wrapped up many story threads from the Season 1 finale while also unraveling many new mysteries in the process.

Lindelof and Perotta have done a phenomenal job keeping the same aura of last season while also reinvigorating the show with entirely original source material. The story built upon the character's relationships in Mapleton whether through Kevin and Patti, Nora and her departed family, and Jill and her estranged brother and mother. Although the story lines seemed to conclude with these final interactions, Kevin's experiences with Patti still haunt him in Texas to where a safe guess would be that he has some mental disorder similar to his father. Additionally, Jill's talk with her brother Tom brought a nice sense of reunion at first, but Tom's poor attitude definitely showed how much better Jill is in her current situation as opposed to her estranged brother and mother, who could not even face Jill in the diner before Laurie herself picked up Tom. Finally, Nora's meeting with the MIT researchers revealed the unsettling reason that Departed's vanishing occurred because of location while a second Departure is an entirely likely possibility.

However, despite these rather dark moments early in the episode, the awkward interview with the social worker displayed Kevin and Nora's commitment to each other and their new family. The sad question from the social worker as to whether Nora and Kevin would like to adopt another child brings many questions to mind. Was a white child intentionally offered to perhaps make a "normal" family? Was that child perhaps the interviewer's? Are there simply not many individuals looking to adopt children? Perhaps the race of the child is a way to show that Kevin and Nora have accepted that things can no longer be "normal." Thus, the events that led to them adopting Lily really created an ideal match for a family that has gone through so many tribulations. Next, the child in the photo may have been the interviewer's because he quickly offered the photo off the top of his deck. There did not seem to be a stack of photos of children for adoption to offer eager parents. The worker also released a somber mood into the scene where he saw Kevin and Nora as the perfect family to raise his child. Lastly, adoption is just no longer a viable option for people looking to create families. Perhaps, families can not deal with the loss of another child or never wish to know that feeling as others in the world have felt. On the other hand, maybe some people think that these children are actually departed from other families, but the kids somehow survived. There are many possiblities that can stem from this short exchange, yet in its typical fashion, The Leftovers only gives a small parcel of information to viewers to add depth to the mystery of the Departure.

Alongside father Kevin is daughter Jill Garvey played by actress Margaret Qualley.

Alongside father Kevin is daughter Jill Garvey played by actress Margaret Qualley.

Shifting to the Garvey's long awaited arrival to Jarden, Texas, numerous beautiful shots truly exhibited the beauty of the world amid all the confusion and turmoil in each individual's life. The writing eloquently ties the Garvey and Murphy overlap in the story lines together with very subtle clues that reward attentive viewers. For instance, the Garveys' original home burning down provided a great nod to the premiere because John Murphy ordered the burning of that home due to Isaac's dishonest practices. Another connection that may be crucial later is that Kevin Garvey, Sr., embarked to Australia for an indefinite amount of time while the town guardian in the tower of Jarden handed Michael Murphy a letter that needed to be sent to Sydney, Australia. The overall activity in Jarden is such a refreshing change of pace where activity is prevalent throughout the city as opposed to the lonely and cold world of Mapleton. A sense of freedom and security prevailed throughout for the Garvey family, but closer analysis shows a strict and authoritarian state. Law enforcement officials reign throughout the town and control a highly organized town. A small example is the quarantine of the Garvey family dog. The officer practically snatched the dog from Kevin's hands. This level of "security" portends a possible conflict later in the season.

Finally, ending with Kevin's problems, he fights with Nora, fears his hallucinations of Patti, and somehow wakes up from what seems like a failed suicide attempt. Kevin is all sorts of messed up, yet he manages to control his life to the best of his ability, an attempt which is admirable and should have viewers rooting for him. Although Nora did spend three million dollars on a dilapidated colonial home, Kevin needs to realize that Nora views Jarden as a symbol of security for her family, especially after her interview with the MIT researchers who suggested another departure event could occur. Jill even points out the obvious that Nora feels safe. Kevin's question about Jarden's safety in comparison to other places elicits an amusing yet heartfelt response from Jill. Jill says, "Then why do we have these awesome wristbands? Please don't fuck this up, dad." This response captures the golden opportunity each member has to reinvent himself or herself as well as grow into whatever "normal" is in this post-Departure world. Kevin's bouts with Patti divulge the severity of Kevin's mental problems. After all, Kevin dug up Patti's dead body and, intentionally, sped past a cop in order to be captured purposely. However, his actions earlier in the episode did not compare to the twist at the end. As soon as the show seemed to conclude with Kevin in bed, he awakes in the empty lake with a brick tied to his foot. This scene implies that Kevin attempted to commit suicide during his blackout. After he watches John and Michael Murphy frantically search for the missing Evie, Kevin glances at his hallucination of Patti. When Patti says, "Uh oh," Kevin's facial expression suggests that he finally accepts his hallucinations of Patti as a problem he cannot abandon. Patti's remark translates to what Kevin hinks about the dreadful situation where his neighbors have a missing daughter, he tried to commit suicide, and he needs to deal with this Patti problem.

Certainly, there is more to dissect from the episode as well as more to analyze in the scenes mentioned above, but The Leftovers loves to provide mystery and intrigue to its viewers as the story slowly unravels each week. Some other highlights of the show are quotes from Patti and Matt. After Kevin leaves the Police station, Patti's question "What the fuck was that?" perfectly captures what every viewer probably thought of Kevin's stupidity. The next great quote is from Matt who excitedly remarks, "We have a tent!" These small moments do not top Jill's brilliant response to her father, but they were welcomed humorous highlights for such a dark and complicated show. Nevertheless,the most poignant portion of the episode is the beautiful overhead shot of the trailer park and bridge around the 29-30 minute mark where the Garveys enter the city. That hold sequence  deserves an Emmy nod with such stunning cinematography, remarkable music in Ruelle's "Take It All," and masterful directing from Mimi Leder. Bravo!

Thanks for reading. Apologies for not getting the premiere review up in time, but I will try my best not to miss another episode. Look forward to a Fargo review Monday or Tuesday for its Season 2 premiere. Come back for more content. Follow me on Twitter @mlozano2 and have a great day.

What makes Media Molecule so special?

What makes Media Molecule so special?

Over the past year, Star Wars: Battlefront has boasted one of the most unique marketing campaigns in the video game industry. Electronic Arts has not spent its time attempting to sell the game based on either its features or its gameplay. The monolithic company attacked the campaign with a fresh set of eyes. EA chose to display the inner workings of Battlefront through numerous developer videos and blogs from developer Dice. These videos communicate Dice's enormouslove of Star Wars as well as the immense honor bestowed upon them in developing the next iteration of such a beloved franchise. EA clearly emphasized showing Dice's passion for such a project so that gamers feel secure and confident in the future of Battlefront.

Why does EA need to show how much Dice cares about the franchise? The company is not alone in this need to show a developer's love of a series. Nearly every time a new developer takes over an established franchise such as Square Enix and developer Crystal Dynamics with Tomb Raider, the representatives of these companies deliver relatively similar speeches at shows and in online videos.

However, Media Molecule is one truly unique developer that ignores this strategy where the developer shows the love of their craft. It's strangeness makes them one of the more special developers in the gaming industry. Media Molecule shows its love for making games through its work in development. The games speak for themselves and show the love poured into tedious development, so the Media Molecule's love manifests itself most in little aspects that other developers seem to forget nowadays. 

Media Molecule's games always revere one's creativity, especially rough the use of the English language. The British developer's ingenious use of language fosters a variety of approaches to the use of dialogue or text in games, from the purely functional (instructions) to the purely aesthetic (the poetry of Dear Esther) and all the in-between strata of storytelling and communication. Many developers like to use a lighthearted tone to their language like Popcap, for example, or treat any text prompt as a chance for a joke whereas they often miss healthy opportunities for wittiness that really can give a game its soul. Humor is 'cheap' - it's silliness and pop culture references: it works fine in the context of Peggle or Plants vs Zombies, but this humor needs no substantial or critical analysis. 

On the other hand, Media Molecule rarely uses lighthearted text to exploit a cheap joke. In fact, the company tends to shy away from jokes altogether in the traditional sense, though certainly the games can be quite humorous despite this approach away from the norm. Each game's text and dialogue celebrates the English language itself. For example, both LittleBigPlanet and Tearaway drudge up interesting and archaic words and make them commonplace in their stories - the Sackboys, for example, are described as "gadding about", and the critters of Tearaway go "wassailling". Likewise, the names of people and places in Tearaway are also drawn from folklore and old-English custom rather than being just plucked from thin air. Just a taste of these names includes mummers, wendigos, the green man, Gibbet hill, St. Swithin's Moor, etc.

The most obvious reason for this resurrection of outdated language is for the sheer aesthetic joy. These words possess a quaintness and whimsical nature, which adds to the tone and develops a humor far more natural and endearing than the crass pop-culture references of PopCap, for instance. Aside from this imaginative strategy to incorporate quirky language in games, Media Molecule's games embody the values the developer aims to promote within its core audience. The company seems to know better than anyone that true creativity is not just making things from scratch, but stitching together the old and new. And this method, after all, is what all tellers of myths do. Media Molecule strikes that perfect balance between timely and timeless, and this sort of attention to detail demonstrates the genuine love that everyone at Media Molecule holds in his or her heart for the craft itself, far more than larger developers like Dice, or publishers like EA and Activision.

In today's industry, the theory that whether or not the creator enjoyed making their craft or not heavily influences the end result of the craft is a testament to the outstanding and unique quality of Media Molecule's games. The idea of creating something lovingly is a real concept, but that idea is much more than claiming in a video that your game was crafted with love simply because you like the property. Development must be a true passion, rarely seen, that really shines brightly in the final creation. Media Molecule's love of what they do has allowed them to forge something special with the English language and with the video game community in a way that most other developers have forgotten how to do.

Media Molecule's next game, Dreams, looks weird and quirky. Not many gamers understand what the game is or tries to achieve, but many gamers surely cannot wait to play it, because the final product will be a labor of love and care not seen in many games today.


If you're as excited for Dreams as I am, let me know on Twitter @johnmsmith15, and while you're at it reach out to Media Molecule @mediamolecule and let them know why they are such a special developer. Follow the site @nerdcavenetwork as well as the YouTube channel Nerd Cave Network.