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Tag Archives: Gunhouse

 

 

Pose.

 

 

It’s raining.

I stand at the end of the pier.

Crashing water.

A gull screech.

I skipped class again.

And it doesn’t matter.

I walk across the university terrace.

I enter the woods.

I sit on a rock.

The rain comes down louder.

Grey falling.

I look up at the trees.

I wonder about the confusion between man and nature.

I close my eyes and think of The End.

I smell the earth.

A dead log in front of me: Bright moss glowing.

No music to play. No poems to write.

Raw, desolate peace.

I stand up and walk into the city.

I stand beneath the awning in front of the library.

I waited for a girl here once.

She never showed up.

I watch a saxophonist belt out some jazz across the street.

I watch him get into it.

I listen to his interpretation of noise.

Nothing to do. Nowhere to go.

I cut the end off a cigar.

I sit down on the cobbled brick.

I watch the jazz player tear everything up.

What was the sense of him being out here in the rain?

Not much money thrown around.

I light the cigar and watch the smoke hang.

The saxophonist stops after a while. He waves to me.

I nod back.

I get up and trudge deeper into the city.

I stand outside the Gamestop.

The last time: I came to pick up The King of Fighters XI.

The clerk was hungover and irritated.

I was trying to learn how to be social.

I tried to start a conversation with him while he was cashing me out:

‘So, I was really surprised this came out here!’

He looked at me.

‘Uh, yeah…’

I walked out.

I walk in.

One clerk. One manager.

I walk around the store.

Look at the used games, the new games.

The clerk begins a conversation with me.

We talk about fighting games.

We talk about games.

We talk about graphics, systems, lighting.

I needed that. I needed to talk.

Another customer walks in.

He enters the conversation.

He is awkward and grating.

He has nothing to say. He keeps talking.

Later on, he would enter the Gamestop Street Fighter IV Tournament wearing a Ryu headband.

He would be eliminated in the first round.

His girlfriend calls him, wondering where he is.

He tells her that he missed the bus and he’s hanging out with his friends.

An hour has passed and the manager is angry.

I walk out.

I walk home.

I try to remember a haiku by Bashō about cherry blossoms.

And I watch everything drip with a blunt, hateful love.

 

Position.

 

The internet was a void.

The discussion around games was dry.

Reviews. Releases. Previews. Business deals.

There was no heart in any of it.

There was no love to it.

There was no concern about it.

The discussion was looking for legitimacy.

It was seeking out the specter of the objective.

The culture was insulated and alone.

And Insert Credit rejected all of it.

It was a new discussion in an honest language.

Years before I began reading IC, it had already influenced my exposure.

It was where my brother discovered rRootage.

It was where a friend introduced my brother and I to MAME.

I began reading it myself.

Each day I spent hours churning through the archives.

Devouring what I had missed.

The stories were subtle. They shifted.

Some were small bits of Japanese gaming culture.

Some were about the intersection of games and culture.

Insert Credit refused the objective.

It refused insulation.

It threw games and pieces of games into the world.

The tone shifted often.

Excited. Cautious. Curious. Introspective.

The narratives were never complete.

IC required the reader to follow-up on their own.

It tried to be the catalyst for growth.

It had expectations.

Sometimes it required curiosity.

Sometimes it required patience.

When I first read Brendan Lee’s infamous feature, I wept.

I wept out of sadness about where games were going.

I wept out of remorse for contributing to the process described.

I wept because it resonated deep inside the guts of my mind.

It changed the way I saw games and the industry around them forever.

Insert Credit woke me.

It was where I learned to rip games apart.

It was where I learned about hardware.

It was where I learned about voice.

Insert Credit was an arcade of a website.

It was a dark glow.

It was full of people who cared.

Brendan Lee. Tim Rogers. Brandon Sheffield.

It was contributors like Ollie and Simoniker.

It was a resonant world.

It became a space of critical emotion.

And one day it all evaporated.

 

Prowl.

 

When Insert Credit stopped, it hit hard.

I used Kotaku to fill that space.

I had just graduated. I was unemployed.

I spent two years trying to be a journalist.

I tried to write about video games on Suite 101.

I started my first blog. I wrote about politics and the Middle East.

It was all terrible.

I was lost.

Kotaku was unfulfilling on its own.

I looked for more.

I found Select Button: A site formed in the absence of Insert Credit.

It maintained the aesthetic.

It was a temporary shelter.

I traced IC’s wreckage anywhere I could.

I found Tim Rogers again at Action Button.

I discovered Mecha Damashii.

I followed Brandon Sheffield on Gamasutra.

Insert Credit’s implosion created the space to further understand their voices.

It pushed me to observe their ideas in different venues.

This sustained me in the years of inactivity.

I moved from Wisconsin to Rochester, NY.

I got my first job after giving up being a journalist.

I worked as a temp in a Blockbuster Distribution Center.

I saw the games people rented.

Madden. Call of Duty. NBA 2K.

It took me awhile to get used to this place.

I read Tim’s review of Bangai-O Spirits.

I spent an afternoon driving to any Gamestop I could looking for it.

It was the first time I made an effort to discover this city.

And Bangai-O Spirits was beautiful.

I gave up writing in my blog.

I gave up writing a novel about being trapped in Lebanon in 2006.

I gave up on social media.

I worked.

I played games.

I read about games.

DoDonPachi Daioujou became an obsession.

Brandon’s words about Ketsui lingered in my eyes.

Every few days I tried to revisit Insert Credit.

And always nothing.

Always stagnation.

It was lonely.

Its absence still lingered.

And one night, it came back.

Insert Credit had a new page.

It was coming back.

I was in my bedroom.

My eyes widened in front of the screen.

I was shocked.

I was thankful.

 

Galavant.

 

The new Insert Credit is larger than itself.

The new Insert Credit is Tim Rogers and Action Button Entertainment.

The new Insert Credit is Brandon Sheffield and Necrosoft Games.

The new Insert Credit is Frank Cifaldi and Other Ocean Interactive.

The new Insert Credit is Gunhouse. Ziggurat. #iDarb.

The new Insert Credit is a podcast full of humor and consideration.

The new Insert Credit is still old Insert Credit with more patience and focus.

Its ideas have spread beyond the written word.

Its ideas, its tone, its warmth, its concern are embedded now.

Watching Insert Credit grow has been a lesson in creative endurance.

Where most game sites would settle for a simple redesign…

Where most game sites would never allow themselves the space to fall…

Where most game sites could never build on their core concepts in new ways…

IC did it all and still stands today.

I started this blog in April 2014.

I started it after seeing Videoball at PAX East.

I spent two days standing at that booth.

Nothing else I saw at the expo mattered.

True to Insert Credit:

Videoball was a million big ideas sliced up into consumable mechanics.

It was a game that cared about games.

I left Boston feeling awake again.

I built this blog off the one I abandoned.

I deleted all the entries.

And I wrote my first post about Videoball.

After three years, a video game made me want to write again.

Insert Credit made me want to find my own voice.

Insert Credit changed me.

It helped me find myself in my writing.

I can’t help but imagine there are a lot of stories like this in the world.

I can’t help but wonder how many others Insert Credit has spurred into action and exploration.

It’s been over a decade since IC launched and the fundamental sadness surrounding it is how entrenched game journalism still is.

Some sites have eliminated numbered scoring for game reviews.

Some sites have tried to post more subjective, experiential content.

But the discussion around games is still full of hype and garbage.

The writing is still bland and lifeless.

The culture is still intolerant and insulated.

That’s why Insert Credit still matters.

That’s why Insert Credit will always be necessary.

It is an inspiring work of endurance and precision.

It is an aesthetic, a philosophy, driven by people who still give a damn.

It’s the punk and the jester.

 

It’s the saxophonist, the noise, and the rain.

 

 

 

 

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Dissolve.

 

 

The Christmas my mother bought me a Game Boy was the most exciting Christmas of my life.

I ran away to the living room, and unboxed the portable in a state of fury.

I plugged away at Tetris for hours.

It was new and phenomenal.

The original GB was fat, used four AA batteries, and had a small display that wasn’t true black and white.

This led to a significant re-design in 1996.

Nintendo expanded the display, slimmed down the hardware, and lowered the power requirements to two AAA batteries: The Game Boy Pocket.

When I got a GBP, I gave my original hardware to my cousins in Lebanon.

Gaming hardware in the Middle East is hard to come by. Either it isn’t available, available in extremely limited quantities, or priced so high that it is out of the reach of median income families.

That’s why the Middle East is full of knock-off systems and pirated software: It is an under-served market with no ‘local’ chains, the only reasonable access available through alternative channels.

One summer my mother bought two games to give to my cousins as gifts. I had to choose which game to give to who.

The two games were Mega Man IV and Tetris Attack.

To a cousin on my mother’s side, I gave Mega Man. To my cousins on my father’s side (the ones I had given the Game Boy to) I gave them Tetris Attack.

At first, it felt like a raw deal. I spent a lot more time with my paternal cousins during the summer, so along with them, I was stuck with Tetris Attack.

While I had spent hours playing Tetris that Christmas years before in Southern California, at this point I had  acquired a stronger sense of games.

Much like all the children around me, I was looking for the fastest, coolest, most action-driven games around.

Tetris Attack, in the face of Mega Man, seemed like the worse game.

We were sad about it.

We cried for awhile.

But TA snuck up on us. It was a slow burn.

At first, we played it for 10-15 minutes at a time, sometimes going weeks without touching it.

Then the sessions started getting longer and the intervals shorter.

Then discussions around the game started happening and it became a summer staple until the Game Boy broke.

When that happened, I brought Tetris Attack back home with me.

 

Pucks.

 

As portable hardware has developed so has the puzzle game.

Much like how Call of Duty borrowed RPG elements beginning with CoD 4, puzzles have become mashed into other genres.

In 2007, Infinite Interactive released Puzzle Quest for the Nintendo DS.

Puzzle Quest was a quest-based RPG in which battles were fought in a match-3, Bejeweled-style system. It was wildly successful and was subsequently ported to every system possible.

In 2008, Braid was released and was recognized for its ingenious combination of platforming and time-manipulation as a tool for puzzle solving.

2009 saw the release of Knights in the Nightmare on the DS. A mystery bag of puzzle, RPG, and STG mechanics.

Since the mid-late 2000’s, puzzle games have continued to evolve and much like how puzzle elements have appeared in other genres, puzzle games are beginning to expand by incorporating outside elements as well.

Hence, Gunhouse.

 

Kevlar.

 

Necrosoft Games released Gunhouse in early 2014 on Playstation Mobile.

It is a game defined by mechanical complexity.

In Gunhouse, the player is tasked with defending a home of orphan children against different enemy types.

The house itself is the puzzle. The player is tasked with matching and combining different icons to create more powerful ‘blocks’.

The strategy element in the Gunhouse puzzle is threefold:

-While combining blocks, the player has to decide whether to try and create powerful blocks in the back of the house to be used as bombs or in the front of the house where they are used to create guns.

-At the top of the screen, there are bonus icons which indicate what weapon types receive bonus damage.

-The puzzle phase is timed.

Part of the genius in the puzzle design lies in that the player’s main control option is to choose how far to swipe a single row.

Each row is three blocks wide. The player has to decide how far to the right or left a row should be moved in order to drop blocks into specific places in order to combine.

Once the timer runs out on the puzzle phase, the gate on the house begins to come down.

This offers the player a last-chance opportunity to finish their combinations and set up their weapons for the attack phase.

In the attack phase, enemies swarm the house. The player has control over when the guns begin to fire and when to use bombs.

The objective is to stop the enemies from getting too close to the house and kidnapping the children.

Like the puzzle phase, the attack phase is timed.

Once the attack phase is finished, the game loops back to the next puzzle phase.

Visually, Gunhouse is an echo of the bright colors and animation of older arcade puzzle games.

The visual design is reminiscent of games like Mr. Driller and Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo.

Gunhouse is a beautiful game.

The art is clean and bold.

Because of its visual stylings and mechanical intricacy, it’s comparable to Knights in the Nightmare.

While KitN is a fun game, it is extremely complex.

Each system in that game influences other systems in ways that may not necessarily be obvious to the player.

It also lacks fluidity in the way its systems engage with each other.

The beauty in the mechanical design of Gunhouse is that all the systems engage with each other in obvious ways.

The player understands the consequences of not creating blocks in the front of the house or not utilizing the bonus weapon type.

The interaction between the two main phases of the game (puzzle/attack) influence the player’s strategy in either phase.

For instance, during an attack phase an enemy swarm might be loaded with flying-types. This then influences the player’s strategy in the puzzle phase by focusing on building more powerful guns near the top of the house (the house has three gun points: top, middle, bottom).

The game is constantly moving and shifting.

The strategic depth of Gunhouse is a product of reading feedback. This makes it a truly dynamic experience.

Puzzle games generally grow stale quickly due to their inability to challenge or engage the player after awhile.

Arcade puzzle games suffer from this less, but can also feel extremely unfair due to vertical difficulty spikes.

Gunhouse strikes the perfect balance of both strategic depth and aesthetic flair.

Gunhouse is an important game.

It is important because it brings together so many dynamic elements and plays them off of each other without any waste.

It borrows different systems from arcade STGs all the way to console RPGs, and it works wonderfully.

Gunhouse is an arcade puzzle game that knows what it is and what its doing.

There is no trying in Gunhouse.

 

It is effortless.