Category Archives: Video Games

Philosophical Boat Trip From The Witness


Image result for The Witness

Image result for The Witness

While I haven’t been playing the latest video games lately (especially on the busiest days!), I keep coming back to The Witness every once in a while.  Ever since I started writing the MakeSandcastlesNotWar blog, I couldn’t get enough of Jonathan Blow’s latest puzzle adventure game.  I don’t know where to start with what drew me into the game – the breathtaking world you wonder around, loads of puzzles that grow challenging each way, or the philosophical discussions from the various audio logs.

Image result for The Witness

Image result for The Witness

This was truly a game where I stepped back and really took in the gaming atmosphere for a while.  There are no enemies or ‘game over’ features when failing a puzzle because it’s not really what the game is all about.  The Witness challenges you to comprehend its lessons not on the game itself, but rather about life itself that you discover within the game.

Image result for The Witness Audio Logs

Image result for The Witness Audio Logs

Wandering around the island, you’ll notice some rectangular shaped audio logs.  Each audio log plays a different quote read by a voice actor/actress.  Some discussions revolve around religion while other nitpick on things like color or sound.  I loved discovering these audio logs so much that I created a series titled ‘Favorite Audio Logs From The Witness’, which you can start reading here.

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Now it’s time I get even DEEPER into these audio logs.  There was one log that really stood out to me for a while.  When you rowing through the ocean on the boat, you pass by a shipwrecked boat across from the mountain area.  Playing the audio logs will give you this:

Suppose a boat is crossing a river, and another empty boat is about to collide with it.  Even an irritable man would not lose his temper.  But supposing there was someone in the second boat.  Then the occupant of the first would shout to him to keep clear.  And if the other did not hear the first time, nor even when called three times, bad language would inevitably follow.  In the first case there was no anger, in the second there was; because in the first case the boat was empty, and in the second it was occupied.  And so it is with man.  If he could only roam empty through life, who would be able to injure him?

~ Zhuangzi, 4th century B.C.

Wow…just…it seems like NO words can describe this beautifully philosophical lesson here.  What does this hidden log mean?  Man losing temper over the occupant?  And could this so-called ‘man’ actually roam empty through life?

There’s a LOT of pieces that should be discussed within the story.  In order to dig deep into Zhuangzi’s lesson about the irritable man, let’s break this story up a bit.  We’ll start with the boat crossing through the river.

Suppose a boat is crossing a river, and another empty boat is about to collide with it.  Even an irritable man would not lose his temper.

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So the boat is crossing through the river and there was another empty boat nearby.  The two boats were about to collide, yet the man won’t become irritable.  Man doesn’t have as much noise distracting him from his simple dilemma (which was prevent his boat from colliding with the empty boat).

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            But supposing there was someone in the second boat.  Then the occupant of the first would shout to him to keep clear.

            Our symbolic tale introduces a new twist – another man was in that second boat.  That calm man has now become irritable because something else was added to his personal conundrum.  He must now shout to the occupant to keep him clear of his path.

Image result for Calm River

And if the other did not hear the first time, nor even when called three times, bad language would inevitably follow. 

            Here’s the ‘cause-and-effect’ part that is introduced to our scenario.  Since the other occupant did not hear the first time (nor even after three times), the bad language would follow.  Not so much bad in the language, but rather the communication happening between the men.  Bad language, or bad communication for that matter, would follow since the dilemma became more challenging.

Image result for Calm River

In the first case there was no anger, in the second there was; because in the first case the boat was empty, and in the second it was occupied.

            We’re near the end where the story starts wrapping up as an abridged version of our tale.  There was NO anger in the first case, yet in the second there WAS.  Where does the anger stem from? The boat being occupied.  The man was calm when the boat was empty, yet he started getting irritated when his problem got worse.

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            And so it is with man.  If he could only roam empty through life, who would be able to injure him?

Right up to the end of the story and BAM!  We’re left with an open-ended question that leaves the story hanging.  Rather than figure out if the man avoided the other occupant, we’re left digging deeper down the rabbit hole.  There is no simple ending because now there’s the idea of man roaming empty through life.

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Man roaming empty through life – think about this line for a second.  The boat dilemma casts as a metaphor for man’s two biggest battles in life: Man vs. Nature & Man vs. Man.  Man faced an obstacle hidden within nature, yet the obstacle got complicated when there was another man to deal with.  It’s not so much about the battle being VIOLENT, but rather battling for SURVIVAL.

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Just like the first man dealing with the occupant in the second boat, we deal with complex problems every day.  What makes things crazier (yet disturbingly exciting!) is that these problems get piled on with MORE added problems.  It’s problems adding onto MORE problems that were there before.

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Let’s face it – these problems are never going to just eradicate into thin air.  Think about this for a minute: if you WERE to roam empty through life, who would be able to injure you?  Who? If no one were to injure you, would your chances of survival increase?

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Notice that I’m asking WHO would injure you in life rather than the WHAT.  If no one were to injure you, then man’s only true battle would be with just Nature.  Yet there’s another dilemma getting in the way, which is – get ready for it – MAN’S BATTLE WITH MAN.  Oh wait, there’s ANOTHER element added to the life: battle among SELF.  Three ongoing battles (Man, Self, Nature), one complicated and twisted life – it’s enough condensed philosophy to make your head spin.

Image result for The Witness

Image result for The Witness

I hope you’ve been paying attention because I’ve dug so deep into this hole that there’s nowhere else to go down.  One game featuring an audio log showcasing a simple story drawing from three philosophical battles.  That right there is The Witness going deeper than just being a video game.

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Alas, an inspirational passage has been successfully discussed.  That was just one of many enlightening audio logs from The Witness.  Who knows what other inspiring passages will be discussed next.

Until then, just know that they’ll always be an occupant within that second boat!

 

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Dystifyzer’s Live 24/7 Nintendo Stream


Image result for Weather Report Band

Image result for Dustin Tebbutt Music

Whenever I create these amazing posts for MakeSandcastlesNotWar, I gotta have some fantastic music blasting.  Blasting some music gives me that creative energy surging through me during my writing.  Whether it’s the soulful jazz music from Weather Report or an adventurous folk-indie album that puts me into a mysterious new world, having that music blasting gave wonders to what has become the MakeSandcastlesNotWar blog.  A new topic, or a new path rather, places readers into the exciting journey today (and in most cases, stories that foreshadow another major event in the future!).

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Image result for youtube Metal Mix

Rather than dig deep into how to harvest that creative energy into writing ideas (those stories will be unlocked at a later time!), it’s time to dive into the music on YouTube.  YouTube has tons of albums up and are absolutely FREE to play.  Rock, jazz, metal, country, blues, and even ambiance music are easy to discover on this social media site.  As someone who loves video game music every now and then, I enjoy the video game playlists that are around.

Image result for youtube Video Game Music

Image result for youtube Video Game Music

Image result for youtube Nintendo Mix

I’ve stumbled onto some crazy music playlists that introduced me to some original video games I didn’t get into as a kid.  Nintendo was always my favorite video game brand and I always choose to play their games every year.  Their games were so much fun, but it was also their nostalgic music that really tugged at my heartstrings.  It’s always cool running into music playlists catered only to the Nintendo series.  Discovering Nintendo music playlists was awesome, but then I found a video showcasing a live streaming service STRICTLY for Nintendo music!

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A 24/7 live streaming service featuring Nintendo music ACTUALLY exists on YouTube!  YouTube user Dystifyzer started streaming on August 23rd and has been streaming tracks from the Nintendo series.  Various users can listen in and chat with others about their favorite songs.  Dystifyzer’s unique channel has favored well with the audience and has been subscribed by over 16,000 users.

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The unique aspect of Dystifyzer’s live stream is the interactivity happening between the users.  Users can simply chat with others, request for songs to be played, ask for rupees (which can be cashed in for things like donating for new album drops!), and even hold mini marathons themselves.  There are over 10,000 tracks from hundreds of games to choose from. You can complete these commands by entering key codes into the chat using the exclamation point.  Typing !rupees will provide the users rupees based on the number of hours they have watch.  If you want to request a song, simply type !songrequest and choose the song from which game it came from.  The more hours you watched, the more rupees you will have to use.

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Users can also rank up by watching the stream service more often.  As you rank higher up, more features will be unlocked to use.  Some awesome features include holding a mini marathon based on your picks or purchasing new album for the stream.  Ranking up is one of those interesting interactive features that provide users more than just free music (did I happen to mention that it’s also COMMERCIAL-FREE as well?).

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With that, Dystifyzer’s live Nintendo stream is definitely worth checking out.  Dystifyzer combined users’ love of nostalgic Nintendo games with a chatroom full of interactive features.  It’s a great stream to kick back with some awesome music from Nintendo and talk amongst others about your favorite games.

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Image result for Youtube Live Stream

This is the kind of unique idea that pushes the boundaries of what YouTube can offer for its users.  Providing users the ability to share music albums around with other listeners is one thing, but creating a live stream service based on a unique theme is a whole other ballgame.  Its users like Dystifyzer that help build upon YouTube’s social community.

Image result for Youtube Video Game Service

Image result for Youtube Video Game Service

Thanks to Dystifyzer, we now have a unique interactive live streaming service featuring some of the most timeless music from Nintendo series.  Hopefully other users will branch out from his unique idea and provide other video game streaming services (like for Sony or other video game brands!).

If you’re looking for an easy playlist, check out Dystifyzer’s 24/7 Nintendo Music Live Stream on Youtube!

 

 

Castlevania on Netflix!


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Image result for Ozark

After weeks of binge-watching, I finally caught up with some amazing Netflix series this summer.  I’ve been in a great summer mood, what with my daily adventures to Boston every week.  It’s August now (Fall is almost a MONTH away) and I’m back to binging back-and-fourth between my other series.  Ozark was one of a few amazing series I got into (which I will get back to later) this past week.

Image result for Castlevania

Image result for Castlevania Netflix

Before Netflix premiered Ozark, there was a nostalgic franchise that was made into an anime last month.  That series is Castlevania, the action-adventure horror themed games created by Konami.  Castlevania revolves around the Belmont family, a clan of vampire hunters that fight Dracula.  The first Castlevania game for the series released on September 26th, 1986.  Konami’s horror-themed games took off with a hit ever since (fun fact: Castlevania created the ‘Metroidvania’ genre of gaming!).

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The Castlevania series on Netflix doesn’t disappoint at all.  I’m not too familiar with franchise myself and even I really enjoyed watching the series.  Lots of things drew me in immediately after starting the first episode.  Season 1 only had four episodes, but they were four AMAZING episodes to binge-watch.

Here’s a few tidbits of why Castlevania was an excellent choice to binge-watch:

Animation

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Right off the bat, I noticed that the animated series looked absolutely beautiful.  It’s colorful and sets the dark tone that mirrors the setting of the story.  For a horror-themed anime about vampire hunting, Castlevania really does look and feel like a gothic anime!  From the dark orange hue of the sunset to the blood red spurting out from the characters, Castlevania just looks gorgeous to look at.

Plot

Image result for castlevania iii dracula's curse

Image result for Castlevania Netflix

What’s interesting to point out is that the plot is based on the game Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse.  Trevor Belmont, a member of the Belmont family, defends the nation of Wallachia from Dracula and his army of creatures.  With only four episodes at 22 minutes each, the plot flows pretty smoothly.  While the dialogue may sound silly at times, Castlevania makes up for it with its action-packed fight scenes.

Action

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Image result for castlevania Netflix gif

This brings me to my last highlight of the series – the action-packed combat itself.  Castlevania is packed with MUCH more violence and gore than the games.  With the nation of Wallachia shrouded in darkness, Trevor fights off the vampires with his vicious whip (and it’s DEFINITELY vicious!).  One of my favorite portions of the series is watching Trevor kick ass with his weapon (nothing better than having breakfast and watching Trevor whip some guy’s eyeball out of his head.).  The gory action scenes prove that this anime was geared towards the adult audiences.

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In the end, Castlevania was a brilliant choice to binge-watch.  It’s a visually-stunning anime with an intriguing story that features action-packed violence.  This is a great series if you’re into the horror-themed anime.  Even if you never played the Castlevania games before, it’s an easy show to follow.

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Now that season one is done, I am definitely amped for when season two hits the digital shelves.  Netflix definitely hit big with this anime and I hope that they release the second season soon.  In the meantime, I look forward to see what lies ahead in Trevor Belmont’s journey.  

Favorite Audio Logs From The Witness, Part 6


Image result for The Witness Mountain Audio Log

Happy hump day folks!  We’re in the middle of the work week and we have a few days left until the weekend (just two more days till TGIF!).  Instead of generating a post today, I’ve decided to motivate you reader with…another audio log from The Witness!  It’s been a while since I posted more of my favorite audio logs and what better time to do it than on hump day.  Here is another one of my favorite audio logs from The Witness:

Audio Log #1: No Frames, No Boundaries

Image result for russell schweickart 1975

Up there you go around every hour and a half, time after time after time.  You wake up usually in the mornings.  And just the way that the track of your orbits go, you wake up over the Mid-East, over North Africa.  As you eat breakfast you look out the window as you’re going past and there’s the Mediterranean area, and Greece, and Rome, and North Africa, and the Sinai, the whole area.  And you realize that in one glance that what you’re seeing is what was the whole history of man for years —the cradle of civilization….And you go around down across North Africa and out over the Indian Ocean, and look up at that great subcontinent of India pointed down toward you as you go past it.  And Ceylon off to the side, Burma, Southeast Asia, out over the Philippines, and up across that monstrous Pacific Ocean, vast body of water — you’ve never realized how big that is before.  And you finally come up across the coast of California and look for those friendly things:  Los Angeles, and Phoenix, and on across El Paso and there’s Houston, there’s home, and you look and sure enough there’s the Astrodome.  And you identify with that, you know — it’s an attachment.  And down across New Orleans and then looking down to the south and there’s the whole peninsula of Florida laid out.  And all the hundreds of hours you spent flying across that route, down in the atmosphere, all that is friendly again.  And you go out across the Atlantic Ocean and back across Africa.  And you do it again and again and again.  And that identity – that you identify with Houston, and then you identify with Los Angeles, and Phoenix and New Orleans and everything.  And the next thing you recognize in yourself, is you’re identifying with North Africa.  You look forward to that, you anticipate it.  And there it is.  That whole process begins to shift of what it is you identify with.  When you go around it in an hour and a half you begin to recognize that your identity is with that whole thing.  And that makes a change.  You look down there and you can’t imagine how many borders and boundaries you crossed again and again and again.  And you don’t even see ’em.  At that wake-up scene — the Mid-East — you know there are hundreds of people killing each other over some imaginary line that you can’t see.  From where you see it, the thing is a whole, and it’s so beautiful.  And you wish you could take one from each side in hand and say, “Look at it from this perspective.  Look at that. What’s important?” And so a little later on, your friend, those same neighbors, another astronaut, the person next to you goes out to the Moon.  And now he looks back and sees the Earth not as something big, where he can see the beautiful details, but he sees the Earth as a small thing out there.  And now that contrast between that bright blue and white Christmas tree ornament and that black sky, that infinite universe, really comes through.  The size of it, the significance of it — it becomes both things, it becomes so small and so fragile, and such a precious little spot in that universe, that you can block it out with your thumb, and you realize that on that small spot, that little blue and white thing is everything that means anything to you.  All of history and music and poetry and art and war and death and birth and love, tears, joy, games, all of it is on that little spot out there that you can cover with your thumb.  And you realize that that perspective …that you’ve changed, that there’s something new there.  That relationship is no longer what it was.  And then you look back on the time when you were outside on that EVA and those few moments that you had the time because the camera malfunctioned, that you had the time to think about what was happening.  And you recall staring out there at the spectacle that went before your eyes. Because now you’re no longer inside something with a window looking out at a picture, but now you’re out there and what you’ve got around your head is a goldfish bowl and there are no limits here.  There are no frames, there are no boundaries.  You’re really out there, over it, floating, going 25,000 mph, ripping through space, a vacuum, and there’s not a sound.  There’s a silence the depth of which you’ve never experienced before, and that silence contrasts so markedly with the scenery, and the speed with which you know you’re going.  That contrast, the mix of those two things, really comes through.  And you think about what you’re experiencing and why.  Do you deserve this? This fantastic experience? Have you earned this in some way?  Are you separated out to be touched by God to have some special experience here that other men cannot have?  You know the answer to that is No.  There’s nothing that you’ve done that deserves that, that earned that.  It’s not a special thing for you.  You know very well at that moment, and it comes through to you so powerfully, that you’re the sensing element for man.  You look down and see the surface of that globe that you’ve lived on all this time and you know all those people down there.  They are like you, they are you, and somehow you represent them when you are up there —a sensing element, that point out on the end, and that’s a humbling feeling.  It’s a feeling that says you have a responsibility.  It’s not for yourself.  The eye that doesn’t see does not do justice to the body.  That’s why it’s there, that’s why you’re out there.  And somehow you recognize that you’re a piece of this total life.  You’re out on that forefront and you have to bring that back, somehow.  And that becomes a rather special responsibility.  It tells you something about your relationship with this thing we call life…. And when you come back, there’s a difference in that world now, there’s a difference in that relationship between you and that planet, and you and all those other forms of life on that planet, because you’ve had that kind of experience.  It’s a difference, and it’s so precious.  And all through this I’ve used the word “you” because it’s not me, it’s not Dave Scott, it’s not Dick Gordon, Pete Conrad, John Glenn, it’s you, it’s us, it’s we, it’s life.  It’s had that experience.  And it’s not just my problem to integrate, it’s not my challenge to integrate, my joy to integrate — it’s yours, it’s everybody’s.

~ Russell Schweickart, 1975.

Super Nintendo Entertainment System…Classic Edition!


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Image result for Donkey Kong Country

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) was my favorite console as a kid.  I was so fortunate to play some of the greatest games Nintendo ever created during the 90s.  Games like Super Mario Bros. All Stars Edition, Donkey Kong Country, Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, and Mega Man X were what made the SNES such a timeless console.  Some of these games are so good that they are even better than some of the new titles out now (I’d bring out my SNES over playing games on the PS4 ANY day!).

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Lately Nintendo has been riding the wave of success with the Nintendo Switch released in March.  The Nintendo Switch has been selling out like crazy and they’re expecting to hit major sales during the holiday season.  As an added bonus, that’s just one of many surprises Nintendo has up their sleeves for this year.

Image result for SNES Classic Edition

Image result for SNES Classic Edition

Nintendo recently announced that a SNES Classic Edition is coming out this fall!  The SNES Classic Edition, similar to the NES version, will feature over 21 titles pre-installed inside the console.  Some of the nostalgic titles being pre-installed include EarthBound, Donkey Kong Country, Star Fox, Super Punch-Out, Yoshi’s Island, and much more.  90s gamers will have to be patient because the SNES classic edition hits the shelves on September 29th at $79.99.

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Image result for Star Fox SNES

As an added bonus, Nintendo will include the unreleased title Star Fox 2 to the mix.  Star Fox 2 was the sequel to Star Fox that was created for the console, but was never released to the public.  So not only will 90s gamers get to replay the nostalgic title on the SNES, but they’ll FINALLY get to play Star Fox 2 this fall!

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What’s intriguing is that this isn’t the first time Nintendo pushed this branding strategy out to their audience.  Nintendo saw major success with their NES Classic Edition (read more about that here) during the holiday season last year.  80s/90s nostalgic gamers rushed to the stores to snag their NES Mini console.  It was a brilliant strategy to keep Millennial/Gen X gamers back into the mix.

Image result for SNES 1990s

Image result for SNES 1990s

This was so exciting to hear!  I loved playing games on the SNES and it’s going to be so great to be able to play them again.  It’s been hard to pencil in time to play some video games (what with my busy schedule and all!), but I would definitely go back to playing the system again.  The SNES console was what made Nintendo take off as an amazing video game brand.  Sure, the Nintendo Switch has been doing fantastic so far this year, but I always think back to the golden years with the SNES.

Image result for SNES Classic Edition

Image result for SNES Classic Edition

I consider myself a 90s gamer and am really looking forward to seeing the SNES Classic Edition in stores this fall.  Hopefully I’ll find the time and money to get the console to relive the golden years of video gaming.  The Nintendo Switch may be out now, but I’m holding off for the Super Mario Odyssey game coming out in the winter (it’s pretty much one of the ONLY reasons for why I’d get the Nintendo Switch!).  Either way, we can all look forward to playing the nostalgic 90s titles once the SNES Classic Edition hits stores everywhere.

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Be sure to look out for the SNES Classic Edition when it releases on September 29th!