Tag Archives: video games

Why “Metro 2033” is such an important development in the world of video games

By Nick Reed

Arts Editor

The idea of video games being an artistic medium to be taken seriously by major news outlets has not always been widely accepted. Since the days of “Pong” and Italian plumbers jumping, video games have more often than not been seen as unimportant brain candy, a filler to keep you entertained but not to be taken seriously.

Over the decades, this began to change. With some video games pushing the envelope of storytelling and visual effects, opinions began to change. Today video games are often widely regarded by news outlets as a medium to be taken seriously.

Some games, such as “Red Dead Redemption 2,” received accolades for its fantastic visuals and incredible storytelling, with the New York Times going as far as to call it “true art” and saying, “The season’s best blockbuster isn’t a TV show or movie. It’s a video game.”

However, much like in the worlds of music or film, the perspectives explored in art are usually similar to my own: western and white. It’s not often that a non-English speaking artist rises to the top of the world charts or a movie reaches audiences outside of its own country. 

This obviously has no impact on the validity of non-western artists; there are many important pieces of art from every corner of the world, and I think it is important for people to explore these on their own. It is important to shift our perspectives from those comfortable to use to see the world through another lens.

While names like Haru Nemuri or BTS come to mind in the world of foreign music, I myself can’t name many video games I enjoy that didn’t come from a western (or Japan by extension) source. Although not well-versed in the world of video games, I thought I could at least come up with something.

Many gamers have heard of Bethesda Studios famed “Fallout” series, a game set in America after the events of a nuclear armageddon. With this, many have wondered what is going on across the pond.

That’s where “Metro 2033” comes in. Produced by Kiev and Malta based studio 4A Games, Metro examines exactly that perspective from a uniquely Russian viewpoint.

Set 20 years after a nuclear apocalypse, “Metro” follows protagonist Artyom, and his fight to save his home. What makes this game unique, however, is its setting. “Metro” is, unsurprisingly, set in the ruins of the Moscow metro system, the only place safe from the radiation and hellfire.

1330px-Moscow_metro_ring_railway_map_en_sb_future.svg

A map of the Moscow metro PHOTO CREDIT: Sameboat

Within the winding metro system come several factions. The factions of the communist Red Line and the Nazi Fourth Reich, which are both explored more in depth in the following game “Last Light,” are pitted in a constant war for seemingly no reason, an allegory all to familiar to us and especially impactful for the people of Russia whose country experienced this first hand.

This is one of my favorite elements of “Metro.” The futility of the conflict and the constant fighting for no end goal. Although showcased before, coming from a Russian perspective this has a different impact. It is important to realize that Russia lived through this exactly, and the political allegory that 4A is trying to tell is heart wrenching to say the least.

As well as this comes the Hanseatic league, the de facto America of the metros. A giant in both size and might, Hanza often treads over its own people to accomplish its goals.

One of the most fascinating parts of “Metro” is its unique gameplay. Artyom often finds himself sneaking through winding tunnel systems, fighting his way along the tracks and narrowly surviving the mutant hoards. Along with these segments come the above ground segments as Artyom navigates across the surface of Moscow, donning a gas mask with a finite amount of oxygen, which severely accentuates the anxiety that comes with the game.

This anxiety cannot be downplayed; this is a horror game after all. The dark winding passages often have monsters, and even humans, lurking around every corner. Every bullet and gas mask filter seems to count as they dwindle from your inventory, and the oppressive darkness of the tunnels only drive home the loneliness and isolation you feel as you navigate toward your end goal. 

Above all these elements is the narratives 4A tries to tell with “Metro.” As Artyom had wished his entire life to see the outside world, even plastering his wall with postcards, he often finds reality confounding his dreams. Flashback segments play throughout the game, such as in an above ground apartment as you watch people living and breathing within their homes, all before it fades back to an empty, long abandoned wreck.

Artyom has never known a life outside of his tiny station on the frontiers of the metro. He dreams of leaving, of experiencing something else. The game showcases just how much more he got then he had bargained for. 

He sees his friends and allies torn to shreds, entire stations massacred, an endless war being waged for seemingly no reason, and he begins to question every decision that is made. Artyom begins to way his decisions, who he saves and who must be left behind. He learns truly of what mortality and sacrifices for the greater good really mean.

“Metro” is a truly unique game. It cannot be stressed just how important it is to pay attention to non-western developers in the world of entertainment. So many fascinating stories can be explored, and many of them simply could not be told by a British or American or even Japanese developer. “Metro” is a story that can only be told by this group of Russian developers. 

Russia is a country we think about a lot, as it is in our news constantly. However, I would ask you how often you look at Russia with a sympathetic eye and not with contempt or judgment. Russia is full of people, just like you or me who live their lives day-to-day.

people on metro

People on the Moscow metro PHOTO CREDIT: Christopher Michel

“Metro” is not the story of any government, of any faction of any group. It is the story of people, of the Russian people. A people who are often not showcased in art. No American story would feature vodka so heavily; no British studio could so accurately depict the stations and life of the Red Line; and no Japanese person could so thoughtfully engineer the boxy Soviet architecture of Moscow.

It is too easy to ignore other countries in the world of art. This is a trope you can’t fall into. Explore other countries, look into the film, drama, music, and especially the games of other countries. You’ll learn something new a documentary could never have told you.

I advise anyone who feels tired of the meta with first person shooters to go out and experience “Metro” for themselves. This truly unique and fascinating take on the world of video games is simply not one to be ignored.

Featured image:  Metro 2033 Redux Review PHOTO CREDIT: BagoGames

 

Students can get creative when they join Video Game Programming

By Avi Mehra and Anthony Terkelsen

Staff Writers

Whenever a player boots up their favorite game, they might wonder how the game was designed. Video games are made by either a stand-alone person or a group of developers working for a company, and the Video Game Programming Expeditions course helps prepare students for such jobs. The course exists to show students how to develop video games using two programs, Scratch and Phaser.

“Programming is a very important skill to learn nowadays,” instructor Matthew Hesby said.

Students explained the difficulty of this course: “It may seem hard at first, but through time and practice, it will become fun,” Tahoma sophomore Aiden Bowen said.

See below for a video about Video Game Programming course:

 

Video Game Programming teaches students the basics of coding

By Deandra Han, Jennifer Rico and Karla Tran

Staff Editors

In Video Game Programming, students use coding to create their own video games; they get to make and play their own games! This course specifically introduces various coding software to students so that they can understand those tools at an in-depth level. Video Game Programming is the course taken before taking Intro to Computer Programming, and it prepares students for what is to come in the advanced course.

Matthew Hesby, the Video Game Programming Expeditions instructor, teaches students how to use special elements and codes to operate and run a video game. Students in this course learn how to code and create video games of their own; they can then play the games they made in class.

Mr. Hesby said, “[In] the Video Game Programming Expedition, we start off with a program called Scratch [where] students make programs using that, and then we switch over to a program called Fazer; afterward they use Javascript, and then students are able to choose from there which one they want to use going on. It’s a lot of work time; students are sitting down, making stuff, building.”

He continued: “Students don’t just program; they also have to draw out their sprites like: coming up with dialogue, coming up with stories and brainstorming what their games are going to be about.”

Rainier freshman Mark Solomita said, “[Video Game Programming] is interesting because it’s fun to see other people’s creations, and you find out what you could do with the knowledge you have with making video games; you don’t know your capacity when it comes to programming, but then you find out what you can do and it’s really satisfying to see your final product.”

See below for a video about the Video Game Programming course:

Course teaches students what it takes to make video games

By Jenny Hu

Staff Writer

The Expeditions course Video Game Programming provides the chance for students to use Scratch or Phaser (2D game engines) to learn Blockly and Javascript and to design their own video games on their own computers. For their projects, students come up with their own video game stories, animations and dialogue.

Video Game Programming teacher Matthew Hesby explained that in the two weeks of each Expeditions round, there has to be a lot of hard work and dedication put into students’ video games because they make the best of what they have. Mr. Hesby said students should be proud of what they create because there are students who are “really passionate about programming or […] drawing and animating” and who team up to make “some really top-tier high-quality games.”

Mr. Hesby said students should take this course “if you are the type of student that just wants to make stuff, wants time to sit and draw and program.” He said “it’s a great class for those who have an idea of what they want to create.”

When asked how this course helped her overall as a student, Shasta freshman Marisa Leong answered that it was helpful with “expressing a lot of my creativity because we make our own games.”

For Celebration of Learning, Video Game Programming is going to have their games up in an arcade so that people who come to support students can play them.

See below for a video about the Video Game Programming course:

Games are meaningful to people

By Justin Casillas, Mark Haiko and Soren Ryan-Jensen

Staff Writers

Video games can be far more than just a time passer. We would argue that games can be truly meaningful to people. Reasons for this can stretch from the visuals of games to the connections players form to characters to the stories those games illustrate. Games can also be significant to people because the choices that players make can feel like choices that have weight, which makes people more emotionally connected to games.

How can the aesthetics of video games impact the player?

I, Soren Ryan-Jensen, am a Denali freshman, and one game that really stands out to me is “Subnautica.” This game looks amazing, and I constantly found myself looking up at all the creatures above me. I feel that I will always remember this game, and, for me, this is what makes it meaningful. Another example is “ABZÜ,” which is really more of an interactive movie. This game has remarkable visuals that surround you with marine life as you explore the calm beauty of the ocean.

This is an image from the game “Clustertruck.” PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Haiko / Landfall Games

Can games can be meaningful because they allow people to connect across the world?

I, Mark Haiko, am a Denali freshman, and I find games allow me to connect with friends that are far away. I play games because it’s entertaining, and I can play with my friend, Charles Derrick William Bailey the IVth, who lives in Tennessee. The games are meaningful because they allow me to play with my friends that are in a different state. For Dexter Hines, another Denali freshman, games allow him to play with his dad and friends. The game is meaningful because it allows him to connect with his friends and his dad.

Are some games meaningful because of the stories they tell or the choices you can make?

In the article “Video Games as Meaningful Entertainment Experiences,” the authors argue that “the experience of meaningful gratification is associated with unique affective responses characterized not so clearly in terms of positive and negative valence, but rather by feelings reflect-ing mixed affect such as moved, touched, or compassionate.”

This study explored how emotions expressed by people playing games were emotions connected to hedonic gratification, which is to say that the experience gave the players emotions connected to what characters were doing/feeling. And when we asked Charles Derrek William Bailey what made games meaningful to him, he said, “100 percent the plot, that is really important to me.”

What happens in the game becomes more meaningful because people feel connected to the characters. For example, in “Mass Effect” when a secondary character dies it doesn’t feel like some random character died, and when the character achieves something it makes the player feel like it is their achievement.

Many people find games memorable because of the stories that these games tell. These stories can be memorable for the same reasons as to why a book’s stories can be memorable. In some cases, the writing can actually be more memorable due to the writers incorporating aspects that are unique for the medium.

Because the main character is the player, the choices made and the actions done feel more like your actions. This is unlike other forms of media where we are rooting for the main characters but that’s just it – we are on the sidelines. With games, the character on screen becomes an extension of ourselves; it’s you who is set back by the challenges, stung by the losses and exhilarated by the triumphs of the character you play.

Can games can also teach people about themselves?

I, Mark Haiko, believe that the following aspects make a game meaningful for me: story, lore, lesson, and morals. If a game lets you do anything, I lean towards the nicer playthrough, trying to save everyone; for example, in “Metro: Exodus” I made sure to only engage in fights when I was forced and not to get into fights with nice local people.

A few games that left a lasting impression on me are the Metro Games and the first six “Call of Duty” games. The Metro games let you save everyone you see and make sure that everyone innocent could survive and live a full life. You can take steps to save everyone’s life (except the antagonists). In contrast, the more grounded “Call of Duty” games had themes of the effects of war and showcased cases of death and war crimes.

I believe games bring people together and do things other forms of media can’t really do. They can connect people even if they are a thousand miles apart. Meaning in a video game, for me, is accomplishing its goal in the best possible way.

So why are games meaningful to people?

People find video games meaningful for a variety of reasons. These include the plot, the aesthetics, the social interactions that can happen and the opportunity to learn something. Games are a medium for people to share ideas, experiences and friends, not just simple entertainment like most assume.

See below for a video about the meaningfulness of games:

Featured image (at the top of this post): This image is from the Caspian level of the game “Metro Exodus.” PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Haiko / 4A Games