Game of the Month: That Dragon, Cancer

Cancer.

It is a perplexing demon that seeps into the lives of even the most innocent. A tar-like dragon that rears its maw, and devours our hope. It attacks the ones we love the most, and it tears us from them, unceremoniously. In a year that’s already started off with many of our beloved musicians and actors succumbing to cancer, I wanted to take the time to share a game that truly evokes the challenges that cancer brings with it. I hope that the personal story of developers, Ryan and Amy Green, touches you and moves you to be inspired as it has me.

joel_1

I had been following the developers of That Dragon, Cancer since they started their Kickstarter campaign for the game back in 2014. I was immediately drawn to the personal story and emotional love letter that the Green family had created for their son. It tells the emotional journey of their family as they dealt with the devastating news that their son, Joel, was diagnosed with AT/RT. An aggressive form of brain tumor that would require tireless hours of care to try and combat, when he was only one.

joel_2

In March of 2014, Joel passed away. In the wake of this tragedy, The Green Family made it through with faith and hope. They decided that the best way to honor their son was to share with the world their personal journey: the joys, the falls, the faith, and the feels. It’s all present, and I can’t even begin to express how beautiful I think this game is. It’s not just a game, and so I can’t rate it as I would others.

This is a family’s journey.

A way to give hope to those who are also dealing with these ordeals in life.

A look at faith, family, and much more.

I could go on and discuss the game mechanically, visually – the surrealist artistry of how you take this journey through a series of emotional mini-games, but I won’t. I can’t say enough about this game. It’s breaking the boundaries of what we consider “classic” game motifs. That Dragon, Cancer, defies AAA titles and states that games can be far more evocative than developers had ever imagined. Ryan and Amy, I am honored to have played your game and it brought me to tears. Your devotion and faith is astounding and That Dragon, Cancer should be seen/played/heard by as many people as possible.

In an era where cancer is devouring, you are bringing faith and hope back to people. Your family is showing that, even in times of deep distress, faith can change anger into hope.

God Bless you Green Family!

I highly recommend you pick this game up. It was released on January 12th, which would have been Joel’s 7th birthday. It’s currently on Steam, PC, and Ouya for $14.99. It’s one of the most beautiful expressions of love, hope, and faith that I’ve ever seen in gaming and I hope that, through their testimonial, we’ll be able to finally shed light unto that Dragon’s lair – and end cancer, and it’s hoard, once and for all.

That Dragon, Cancer: http://www.thatdragoncancer.com/preorder/

Family: http://www.thatdragoncancer.com/our-family/

Blog: http://www.thatdragoncancer.com/thatdragoncancer/

 
Now, I’m going to eat pancakes in honor of Joel, as I wipe my tears from my face.

Inspirational Gamers: A Knight’s Tale

It is rare that we find aspects of our life that evoke so much passion for us on a daily basis. I recently read a series of articles written by blogger T.R. Knight and his wife, Angie. These articles were so moving and evoking of what I aim to shed light on in the gaming universe that I couldn’t hesitate to share them with you all. I hope you read through these articles and you share in the same joy, respect, and admiration that I have for this couple’s commitment to each other in gaming and in life.

T.R and Angie

T.R. Knight is a fellow blogger and gamer whose personal journey in gaming brought me to tears the first time I read his article. He and his wife, Angie, are living a gamer’s life and making it work even through the struggles of MS. Angie was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in July 1997, and yet, that hasn’t slowed down this couple’s love and drive for gaming. It is their passionate and loving story that I am so attached to. Tabletop gaming has become an outlet for them, as it helps fit within Angie’s current MS symptoms.

I will admit, as a writer and gamer, I never thought that tabletop gaming could be used in this fashion. A therapeutic, social interaction that allows for those with agility/mobility and memory issues to still be active within the gaming community. T.R. and Angie are sharing with me a whole new outlook on how to run games, what aspects to focus on, and what styles of gaming are most accommodating to patients with MS. I am blessed and honored to be sharing their story with you now.

T.R. has taken it upon himself to give a valuable resource of MS symptoms and how they have impacted Angie and their gaming life in his most recent blog. Angie has also taken to his blog and posted her personal perspective on what games appeal to her. I’m going to definitely take these aspects into account as I go forward and progress as a game designer. I hope, T.R. and Angie, that one of these days I’ll have helped a company build a game, or design my own, that both of you will be able to enjoy.

Please feel free to read through all their articles, as they are a joy to read and offer amazing insights into a side of the gaming universe I think many of us rarely see, or forget exists.

Freelancer and Care Giver: Freelancer and Caregiver

Accessibility in Game Design: Accessibility in Game Design

Angie’s Perspective: Angie’s Perspective

T.R., you are truly a knight among men sir. I am honored to be among your supporting guild, and will continue to share the knowledge you and Angie have to give the world. God bless you both on your path as family, loving companions, and exceptional gamers!

 

Accessibility for All. Happy gaming to you and your family!

Rolling Up Confidence: The Benefits of Tabletop Gaming

It was only a matter of time before I dusted off my old dice bag, poured out my set of multi-sided dice, and actually talked about a different venue of gaming – tabletop gaming. Tabletop gaming has been a part of my life for quite some time, but only recently have I come to admire and appreciate what tabletop gaming has done for me as a grown man.

I recently found some wonderful videos that details how Dungeons and Dragons can make you a more confident person. I felt like I should share them with my readers, because I feel like tabletop gaming can share so many benefits that video games just don’t provide a player.

PBS Idea Channel – How DnD Can Make You A Confident and Successful Person:

A Fistful of Dice Dungeons and Dragons – Satan’s Game [ A Misconception of Tabletop ]

Here’s a list of the positives, see if you disagree with me here:

  • Social Interaction
  • Problem-Solving Skills
  • Visualization and Innovation Techniques
  • Adaptability 
  • Stress Relief
  • Increased Confidence
  • Increased Sociability 
  • Increased Sense of Achievement
  • Increased Communication Skills

Now I know you’re probably all reading this and going –

“Seriously? How does rolling dice do all of this for me?

I thought DnD was for nerds only!”

– as if it was some exclusive club we were officially shunning folks from. In actuality it’s a pretty open format available to pretty much anyone who’s willing to open their evenings up to an evening filled with goblins, gnomes, and epic adventure stories that seem to be pulled straight from the pages of The Hobbit. The great thing about tabletop gaming is that, now, there are so many variations and styles of tabletop game – you’re kind of hard pressed to find something that you won’t like. Whether it’s the new-school Pathfinder, or the old-school DnD 1st Edition – you’ll find something to wet your creative imagination.

I started playing DnD – or variations of it – about 8 years ago. I got hooked on video games like Neverwinter Nights, Baldur’s Gate, and other RPG games. The one aspect I found most fascinating was the concept that I could play as anyone, or anything I wanted – within reason – and I could journey on these exquisite quests with lavish adventures with other characters that had lavish personalities. It was like a small oasis of sanity in a time in my life where I felt quite misunderstood and uncomfortable with who I was as a person.

I was never confident growing up, and those who perceived that I was must have massively failed a Will save at my Bluff skill. DnD and other roleplaying games helped me to define that portion of my life. It produced a sense of confidence in me, because nothing said I could take on the world more than the success of defeating a raid of orcs just before school – acquiring a date or two would have been too – but I digress…

I think that’s ultimately the point I’m trying to share here:

Tabletop games are fun for your soul. 

I know that sounds fleeting, but hear me out. In comparison to online FPS’s, RPG’s, etc. You are in a room with your fellow friends [ If they aren’t your friends, well then I hope they become them. ] so you’re already gaining social interaction. You’re gaining SELF-CONFIDENCE due to an increased feeling of endorphins from succeeding in a roll check or doing some epic feat in front of the entire party. You’re gaining REAL WORLD PROBLEM SKILLS as you search to find a way to defeat a band of rogues on a road – together – and now you’re learning COLLABORATION.

My final point is:

Roleplaying games provide social and individual acceptance.

Embrace it. Love it. Learn it. Go Play it. A Campaign can be ANYTHING you want.

Imaginations are only limited by the person, not the rules.

You’ll learn to love who you are as you roll along. Now get out there and roll some d20’s!

Inspirational Gamer of the Week: Keith “Aieron” Knight

It’s been ages since I’ve posted one of these, but this story hit my desk this morning and I felt compelled to share it:

How many of us have lost loved ones to some form of physical disability? – some form of debilitating disease? Well in the case of Keith Knight – he’s losing many. He, along with many of his friends, deal with a variation of muscular dystrophy. Knight, though not having dystrophy himself, suffers from a condition known as Amyoplasia Arthrogrypos. This condition caused him to be born with less muscle mass than he was supposed to be born with. The condition has worsened over time – causing his joints to stiffen and fuse. He has an intimate and close relation with those of the MDA community. A friend of his recently passed away due to complications with the disease. In honor of his friend’s passing it has inspired him to take a stand for the MDA community in one of the most positive ways I can ever dream up.

This guy is truly a Legend in my book!

He intends to play games for charity.

Knight has been streaming his play sessions of Guild Wars 2 and League of Legends  in efforts to raise money for Walk for Muscular Dystrophy that took place in Canada on Sept. 22nd, 2012. Now certainly we’ve heard of people playing games to raise money for charity. I make mention of it all the time on here, but why is this special to me? – because of how Knight does what he does! You would never think that he could play like he does because of his stiff joints and lessened mobility, but he has found a way to make himself competitive despite his physical hardships. I’ll gladly try and embed the stream link on this article for you all to follow today and tomorrow. This guy is fantastic and an inspiring hero for people struggling with this disease.

He may not be able to walk, but his message will reach millions.

He uses his face for all of the inputs! He uses his chin to move the joysticks, and his nose and lips to input button presses. He has since moved on to PC gaming, as you can clearly see, but he still remains competitive. He places the mouse next to his cheek and uses a pen to provide for the button inputs! He’s remarkable and Keith, if you get a chance to read this, just know that I love what you’re doing man. You are truly an inspiration – not only to the MDA community – but to people around the world. I admire you for your strength and positive outlook in times of hardship and I can’t wait to show your video to everyone to get the word out.

So, please, if you have a moment – stop by his Twitch.tv thread and watch him play.

It’s pretty amazing to watch, and thank you to all who donated to this wonderful cause – Keith raised over $ 7,797.00!

Keith – more power to you man! I noticed in the article that you’re an aspiring game designer: Let me know when you graduate man. I would love to work with you some day, as I’m sure many of my fellow readers would as well. You are truly someone special and meaningful to this world sir!

Game of the Week: Halloween Edition

Well the pumpkins are carved, the little ghouls have been fed, and the costume stores are closing up shop and selling costumes for a DOLLAR! [ Thanks Wal-Mart! 🙂 ] – and thus marks the end of Halloween. It was good while it lasted, but now November’s here and I’ve got to look forward towards a mouth full of turkey and a wallet that will soon be emptied by holiday shopping.

         Games don’t care about holidays though. They’re like superheroes. They work 24/7.

This is why this week I’m devoting an entire Game of the Week to Halloween!

Here are two games that will certainly have you addicted to bumps in the night!

1. Monster Park – Kiwi

Now folks who follow this blog probably know my taste in games by now. I’m pretty much opposed to any game that has me farming/collecting anything besides Pokemon. It is my deepest regret [ and overwhelming joy ] to tell you all that I was introduced to Monster Park by Kiwi. Things have never been the same since. Now, what is Monster Park?

Here’s a brief overview for your viewing pleasure:

It’s designed for mobile devices and I have to say it’s a joyful, easy, light-hearted experience. The game breaks down your Monster Park into tasks which are fairly simple to accomplish. The game mechanics are simple with one touch interface via touch screens. This game is so unassumingly addictive because of how easy it is to get started, but once you’re a few monsters in – it’s hard to stop. The biggest downside to this game is wait time, but that’s a bonus with mobile titles. You may have to wait 24 – 48 hrs for a project to finish, but – hey, at least you can play any time.

I’m a Monster! Rawr!

Pros:

  • Art is comical, enjoyable, and child friendly for all ages to enjoy.
  • Color scheme seems to be colorblind friendly, though some monsters are harder to distinguish, due to pallets and housing backgrounds.
  • Simple touch screen mechanics make the game limited mobility friendly.
  • Special mythical creatures, and holiday events add specialized achievements
  • Audio isn’t important, or required, to play this game. Plus for deaf players.

Cons:

  • Wait times can be horrendous for certain tasks [ Game Room/Some Hatching
  • Music track can tend to get repetitive after a time, if playing continuously.
  • Breeding based on randomized algorithm. No guarantees that you’ll breed X over Y. [ i.e.: Expect to be disappointed sometimes if you don’t get what you’re after.]
  • Purchasing Mythic creatures seems to be too expensive for players to achieve

Monster Park uses a Free-to-Play method of game design – so, if you’re into collection games, and want something fun to do this fall besides eat the rest of your kids Halloween stash pick this game up! It’s available on all Android mobile devices! You’ll be dying to play it more and more as you gain levels!

2. They Took Our Candy – Level 1 Wizards

I love the retro gaming era. I know I wasn’t born till the later of it, but I can’t help but find myself falling in love with pixel art and any game associated with it. That’s why when I saw this game,  I just knew I had to write about it. They Took Our Candy by Level 1 Wizards is a heartwarming, nostalgic montage to the days of our youth.

Zombies take our brains… but Aliens want our SUGAR!

 

Oh, and did I mention that you play as a group of trick-or-treaters bent on saving the universe from alien invaders who want to take your candy? It must have slipped my mind! If you like this concept though, then you’ll love They Took Our Candy this Halloween season! Grab up your goodie bags and set your fazers to KILL – in this retro-modern alien blaster!

For Reese! For Hershey’s! FOR SUGAR HIGHS EVERYWHERE!

Here’s a brief look at the game and it’s content:

Pros:

  • Game is set to auto-fire. Excellent for limited mobility gamers
  • Game increases slowly in difficulty and allows time for upgrades
  • Games color scheme is vibrant and varied enough for colorblind.
  • Game doesn’t require audio to play. Visual cues easy for deaf to use.
  • Game adds additional challenges via Survival Mode

Cons:

  • Game doesn’t have an WASD function. Left-handed gamers will have trouble.
  • Game enemies can become increasingly overwhelming in certain levels.
  • Game only allows access to new characters/new strategies after certain XP is hit.
  • Games soundtrack, while awesome, can become repetitive after a few sessions.

Overall the game focuses on being quite an accessible game, and makes for a joyous Halloween treat this year. You can stop in and play this wonderful creation over at Kongregate.com today. I would love to see a mobile version of this produced, because I think nothing would be better than blasting aliens for candy while I’m filling up with my morning coffee.

Thanks Level 1 Wizards for an exceptional Halloween treat that everyone can enjoy!

So there you have it folks! Now pig out on candy, while it’s still around. Grab your mobile or computer devices and enjoy these little indie chunks of heaven. Share them with your friends and make the sugar high monstrous addiction come to LIFE! Muhahaha – I mean…

Happy Halloween and enjoy your Fall season!

Gastrogamer – Insert Coin to Replay

I’m… BACK!

[ Insert Coin NOW! ]

Gastrogamer took a bit of a fall hibernation due to increased schoolwork, but Full Sail has been good to me lately and I’ve quite enjoyed the course work over the last few months. Now, with Fall in my sights, and a slew of holiday gaming sales on the rise – I’m sort of amped up on an endorphin high with the excitement of getting my hands on some of the newest games hitting the market.

I’ve got everything from web-based indie games, to AAA blockbusters to cover, but I plan on doing it in a timely fashion. Here’s what I’ve got on my schedule in the next coming month:

  • Indie Game Coverage Galore
  • Assassin’s Creed III Review
  • Amazing Spiderman Review
  • Holiday Gaming List
  • More Inspirational Gamers
  • Wreck It Ralph! Review
  • A Tabletop Discussion: DnD and Pathfinder
  • Personal Game Development News

So, stick with me folks, and I assure you I’ll continue to provide you with continuous game info, accessibility, and discussion as we head towards the holiday seasons!

Game of the Week: Super Adventure Pals

*dusts off the old manuscript*

Oh gosh, how long have you folks been sitting here without a good game to get your hands on? Well, for the record, I just want to apologize for that. It’s summer, and despite popular belief, I am not a vampire who writes game blogs every day. I like to feel the warmth of the sun on my pixelated skin tone. Well now I’m back, and I’m rolling up my sleeve to deliver a pretty awesome game from developers, Jay Armstrong and Julian Wilton, called Super Adventure Pals.

Now close your eyes and picture this:

You are a young boy. You have a pet giraffe and a pet rock. You’re having a peaceful picnic in the forest, when out of nowhere an evil villain STEALS your PET ROCK! Now it is up to you to save your pet rock [ and vicariously your village ] from the likes of evil genius mastermind: Mr. B. You’re an action hero. A superhero – oh, and did I mention he has a giraffe?! YES. He does. Save the rock, get the girl, and save the town in this adorably addictive Action/Platform/RPG.

‘This picnic ROCKS Giraffe!” “Murrrruuu!”

If the concept is hilarious to you, well then all that’s holding you back from seeing this gem is playing it. In light of this though, I suppose we should be talking about accessibility. OK! Armstrong and Wilton did a lot of small tweaks to the game’s overall design which I feel really make this game enjoyable and I hope you do too – so here goes nothing folks! Hoo!

Pros:

  • Optional control scheme at the start of the game. Left and Right handed schemes.
  • All text/dialogue is written out or symbolic. No audio is necessary to complete levels.
  • Color scheme and art animations are clear and sharp enough to be distinguishable.
  • Simple gameplay makes the platforming enjoyable and the quests engaging.
  • A humorous storyline combined with a plethora of levels to play through makes S.A.P. a joyful and unique platforming experience.
  • Health kits are automatically used making traveling and healing simple.
  • 75 levels, 4 bosses, and 3 towns full of content gives this game quality time.

This level feels so slow – oh. It must be the sloths!

Cons:

  • The text is only available in English, so international gamers may have issues if they’re not proficient in reading English.
  • The control schemes may be simplistic, but they often times require both hands.
  • Motion-impaired gamers may have difficulty with the platforming in further levels.
  • The game doesn’t have a mouse-only option for movement, so one-handed gamers will have extreme difficulty in accomplishing levels.

“Muhahahaha! ALL YOUR ROCKS ARE MINE!”

Overall, while the game has challenging platforming that may make some gamers frustrated, the appeal of the quirky artwork, humorous storyline and engaging levels makes Super Adventure Pals a definite ‘must see‘. Save your pet rock, ride your giraffe, save the world from evil masterminds! Armstrong and Wilton have done an impressive job with this game and I tip my hat to their genius Flash designs. You can play Super Adventure Pals NOW on Kongregate. It’s an accessible little blast of challenging fun and one of the best I’ve seen Armstrong release!

Way to go gentlemen! Now, if you’ll excuse me – I have a giraffe waiting to fight aggressive sloth monsters. He gets cranky when I don’t feed him.