The Power Of Game Hype In The Workplace

Just over a year ago, I moved from my city of birth to my current home. I’m about 4 hours away from the place that helped to shape me into who I am. I spent over a 1/4 of a century in that city and nearly a decade in my job there. Personally, I believe myself to be quite introverted and hitting a reset button on friends and colleagues isn’t an easy task for me. I don’t make friends quick or work chums as easy as I would like.

Part of this is my own personal preference and my own fault. I like to listen to podcasts and audiobooks while I work. But if I know the person I’m working with, I’m more than happy to talk. Unfortunately my current workplace is more, older generation staffed. Very few new staff get brought on and so not only is the majority of the workforce 2 or 3 decades older than me, but those cliques are already established. Then you have the fact that I live in the UK and I don’t have watch football. Nor do I watch soaps. I know, shoot me now! Not much of a Brit and definitely not hip with 90% of my co-workers. I could watch football, I could make the effort for the sake of conversation…..but I don’t want to. I find it boring and I can’t fake an interest in it. If you’ve heard Moss from the IT Crowd talk about the ludicrous display, then you have an idea of my footie patter.

So imagine my intrigue when I heard mention of mouse and keyboard play. 2 staff who were hired a few months ago were chatting about upgrading a computer when I was asked by a manager to help their station. I had talked to these newcomers before and got along with them fine but outside of casual work banter we never touched on anything more personal. The conversation quickly changed after that mention but it stuck with me as a future topic. I know a lot of people play games so I shouldn’t be surprised that they were gamers, but finding someone in my workplace to talk to about games is different. Like finding a diamond in the rough.

So last week, was the launch of Red Dead Redemption 2. To be exact, it was out on the Friday which was the next day. I just so happened start my job with those 2 staff members. I needed to talk to someone about Redemption 2 as I had been keeping my excitement at bay since its announcement but now with the game so close, I was overflowing with giddiness. So I asked (fake name time!) Mr Black if he was getting Redemption 2. ‘No but Amanda Hugginkiss is. She’s going at to the shops at midnight to collect it.’. What followed next was hours of chatting about games. All 3 of us sharing our history with gaming. Talking about our excitement over Redemption 2 and the possibility of being *sick*  for work, starting consoles, favourite games, hours spent on Call of Duty 4, Runescape memories and loads more. The time flew by and since then we’ve been talking about our own progress on Redemption 2 and how we’re playing Arthur Morgan. Not only that, they’ve told me of other people in work who game and so I know now who I can geek out with.

I had a range of friends and co-workers where I previously lived and we were all big gamers. When I moved, my connection to them dropped. I still talk to a lot of them but it’s not the same as seeing them constantly. But that is life. Co-workers leave and friendships dissipate sometimes. I’m aware of that. However, that excitement over a new game or film, I haven’t felt that in a long while. Not since moving. I was excited for Redemption 2 but no where near the level I was for previous games. And I realise now that that was because of my environment. There is something infectious about hype among colleagues and work mates. When you have a bunch of people who are counting down the days left to the next Battlefield or a new trailer for a game getting shown around the break room. When it’s home time before you even realise and the only realisation you have is that you just spent 6 hours talking about E3. I missed that. I didn’t realise how much I actually missed it until I experienced it again after so long.

It’s amazing what talking to the right people about the right topic yields. I had known both of those 2 for a good few months. Not extensively but on good terms. Within a day, my knowledge of them easily eclipsed my previous knowledge of them. I now have someone I can easily talk about something I love with. And even though that still only equates to about 1% of the workplace I know to be gamers, it still feels good to have someone who enjoys what I enjoy. There are people I can talk to comfortably and that alone makes my job so much more enjoyable. It’s still work at the end of the day but now I have people to talk to whilst we share that misery. Yay!

 

Where’s My Team Buddies Reboot?!

Has anyone else played this Playstation game? That’s rhetorical, I know others have because there are Youtube videos of it but have you, the reader played it? If you have please message me and let me know because I have never spoken to anyone who has. Whenever I mentioned it to friends in the past and to this day, they haven’t a clue what I’m on about. I had so much fun playing this and its gameplay is perfect for an online team based game. I know there are a lot of games people want rebooted or a sequel, more well known ones than my choice. I loved Timesplitters 2 and Future Perfect but come on, Team Buddies needs some reboot love folks.

Team Buddies grid
Those arrows are confusing. Where can I put this box?

For those of you asking what the hell I’m on about, I’ll explain the premise. So Team Buddies is a game centred around the collection of boxes. Thrilling, I know! You play as these walking pill looking people of all colours of the rainbow. It’s a team based game where you and the enemy teams fight over crates that you then put on your team crafting pad to create weapons/teammates/vehicles. You then use all of what you made to destroy your enemies and to destroy their base to stop their future production. Different layouts of boxes yield different results. Not only that and I may be getting this detail mixed up, but I believe different levels make different types of characters and different types of weapons. So for instance, on one level you place a block down and you create a shotgun. On another level your characters are ninjas and one block yields shurikens whilst 4 blocks, lying flat in a square formation makes a rocket launcher. 8 blocks in cube formation will create a vehicle for your team, these include tanks and planes.

team_buddies_by_flash_gavo-d5ovxly
Look at this! Barely out of the 90’s but still full of attitude

 

What I loved about this game was the tactics you could utilise. You could hurry and make a shotgun and try to take down an enemy’s base straight away. You might succeed and eliminate a whole team but then you’ve just let the other 2 teams gather boxes and create an army. Or do you grab the boxes and launch them in your pads generally direction and hope nobody steals them while you’re away? It makes me laugh because there is an almost eerie calm before the storm in Team Buddies. The average map will have teams in opposite directions and a middle ground where the boxes continuously drop from the sky on to. Usually everyone starts with one person per team and then they have to make their own squad. 4 per team I believe. And so, the first minute of the match is usually a grab and chuck match as each colour pill is lobbing crates to their bases. Then the madness begins. Soon every team has 2 people and some with weapons. Now the fight for the crates turns lethal. Bullets hail across the map and boxes punted out of pill people’s hands. And sometimes, rare blue coloured boxes fall the sky. Manna from heaven! You can bet your bum that if you make a grab for those, you become target numero uno.

Team buddies cat
Silly cat, this is a battlefield! Home is that way!

The game features a variety of modes. Single player has scenario modes and levels and multiplayer has your now standard fare of mode. Deathmatch, Domination, Capture etc. The game featured up to 4 player multiplayer and each player could create 3 additional AI teammates. Not only that but you can swap control to another buddy with the touch of a button. Can you imagine the chaos? I wish I had friends and a multitap back then!  Also, the game featured different personalities for different buddie types. The standard buddies had a cockney accent and were boisterous, while the ninjas had bad ‘engrish’…..maybe leave that out of the reboot. Nevertheless, these quirky characteristics combined with the tongue in cheek humour and film references made me fall in love with the game. Plus,he mild cursing helped. Hey, as a teenager and formally a Nintendo kid at that, swearing was uncommon back then in gaming. My mind was blown the following year when Conker’s Bad Fur Day was released.

I do wish the game garnered more attention and a bigger fan base. From what I can gather the game had a limited release and it’s hard for an IP to make a mark. Especially with how unique and cartoony the game looked, I can imagine that didn’t help it when next to serious looking games like Tomb Raider and commercial successes like Crash Bandicoot. I love team based games and just the idea of this in an online way makes me very happy and sad that it didn’t happen. I know the idea of a reboot or spiritual successor is a pipe dream but I still want to live in that dream sometimes.  The game is pure chaotic fun and its cartoonish graphics have helped it stave off the ugliness of some early 3D games.  It’s not a perfect game but me and my sister used to have a great time playing this together.  If you can, if you have a way to play this game, if you have a copy somewhere or even through emulation, give the game a go. Better yet, give it a go with a friend or friends. I think you’ll enjoy it.

 

Just A Quick Go: Dead Cells

After my 20-25th death in Dead Cells, I thought I’d take a break and explain why I keep chucking myself at deaths cruel embrace. I’ve had my eye on Dead Cells for a while now but always been hesitant to fully jump on the hype train. The graphics looked amazing, the combat looked fluid and fast. It looked like a fantastic game but I kept hearing that word being thrown around, which kind of put me off it. That amalgamation of two brands, Metroidvania.

Before you brandish the pitchforks, I don’t hate those games. I prefer Metroid Prime to the 2D games though. I tend to fall off the 2D Metroid games at a quick rate. Except for Metroid Fusion, that was a brilliant game. Castlevania I haven’t really played except Castlevania on the N64 which, even in my 10 year old mind, I knew that was a dud rental. After that I never touched it again until the DS games, which I liked. But with both series there is always a point, where after hours into their respective labyrinths I think ‘Where do I go now?’. These games are designed so that you’ll find a pathway but will need a certain tool/key/skill to go that way. The problem is I always end up forgetting where that was and I just lose interest fast when I’m finding dead end after dead end. Dead Cells alleviates this issue for me by not only having a map that has pictures for my dumb brain but also by being a rogue-lite game. A fantastic one at that.

In Dead Cells you play as……….I’ve no idea actually. You are a blob that rolls into a corpse, controls that corpse and then heads off on his adventure. There isn’t much in the way of story here. It’s mostly filler text, scribblings on walls and observations your character can make. These help to fill the world but so far I don’t really know what this world is. Does that matter in a rogue-lite? Not really. There may be a story I’m missing or a reveal at the end but I’ve not even beat the game yet so I can’t explain the world. But that works in Dead Cells favour. As you control this blob controlling a body (I’m a bit of a blob myself so I know how that feels), you venture through different areas on an island, fighting your way through people and abominations. On your travels you will gather a bounty of resources including better weapons, stat boosts, blueprints for new gear, traps, money and the all important cells. Cells are the name of the game both figuratively and literally. Sure on your quest you may find a fantastic sword and astonishing bow but as soon as you die though, you lose all your gear. Cells however, are used to make your next journey easier.

Dead Cells Jars 3
The more you play, the more these blueprints will fill the jars. It’s a visual treat at the start of each run, to see how much you’ve progressed.

As you progress and slay enemies, they will sometimes drop cells. Once you reach the end of the area you are currently in, you go to a hub between areas. Here you can retool your gear, refill on health, enhance your character through mutations (more on that later) and most importantly; spend cells on eternal upgrades. For example, on your previous area you found a blueprint for a slick looking bow. On arrival at the hub space, you speak to a character who trades cells for game wide permanent buffs. Say I had 40 cells and the new bow blueprint I found costs 30 to create and to put into the game’s rotation. I put my cells into that and unlock the bow. Now that bow can appear on all my future runs. Consider it an investment. Now I have 10 cells left. I’m sure you didn’t need me to do that math for you but there it is anyway. What to do with that spare 10? I could put it toward a sword that poisons enemies, an extra health flask on top of my other 2, a perk that allows me to carry over 3000 of my gold to my next run upon my death. There are tons of ways to increase your arsenal and better your odds on your next go. There are lots of ways to increase your chances as you play. You will come across shops, find chests with goodies inside, find cursed chests that offer tantalising surprises for those who are willing to risk it for a biscuit, secret areas and be able to utilise up to 3 mutations.

Mutations are basically buffs for that individual run. When you first start playing Dead Cells, you have a dozen of so to choose from. As you find blueprints though, you will expand that list of possibilities. Do you go attack heavy and increase your damage for 15 seconds after an enemy kill? Go defensive and increase your HP? Increase your damage when you deploy bear traps, turrets or any of the other throw-able tools? The choice is yours but the best of players will choose a mutation that combos with the gear that they have.  All the above is why Dead Cells works for me. I don’t need to retain map data to know where to go. Dead Cells has branching pathways but you will always find an exit you can use. As you progress through the game you will encounter foes that once defeated, will leave a new power up for you which, will help you enter previously unreachable areas and will carry over after you die. It’s this continually satisfaction that keeps me coming back to Dead Cells. When I first played it, I couldn’t do the first area. Now I’m lasting close to an hour before getting my butt kicked. But even when I die, I know that all those cells I collected in the other areas, have all gone towards my goal of beating the game. It doesn’t matter that when I died I lost 26 cells because through the other areas I must have put over 100 cells into permanent upgrades and weapons. The more you play, the better you become. Not only that but your understanding of how the enemies fight improves. And on top of that! For all you speed runners out there. In a lot of the levels you will find doors that are only accessible if you get there within a certain time limit. Through the door you will find a stat increase, money and a stash of cells. So you always have a choice of going through the game at your own pace, or bombing it through the level like a mad man.

DeadCells Ramparts
Ramparts is my favourite location so far, There a very Prince of Persia feel to it when fighting enemies on the rooftops. It looks amazing too.

I realise I’ve written over 1000 words and barely said how I feel about the game. I’ll give a quick summary here but hopefully you found what I’ve described as interesting. This is a great game and thoroughly recommend you check it out. Besides its lavish environments and addictive gameplay, the one thing I love about the game is how it plays. It flows so well. It’s hard to describe except just to say that it plays really good. To compare it to another game, I would say it plays as good as Super Meat Boy. By that I mean, the sense of control and precision. The movement and combat in this game is on that level. Even when things are out of control on screen, I never feel out of control. Besides one or two times when I meant to jump down a narrow gap between two ledges. My character kept grabbing onto the ledges and pulling itself up. I died there which was annoying but on a mostly randomly generated game like this, that stuff is bound to happen. But that was a minor incident in my hours of game time. It didn’t stop me from immediately starting another run. If you’re looking for an addictive, expansive and combat heavy side scroller, look no further than Dead Cells.