My Top Ten Favourite Video Games of All Time

I was talking to a friend recently about my favourite games and I decided to make a list! Picking a favourite was pretty easy, but there were so many contenders for second and third place that I had to blow the list out to ten. These are those treasured favourites which I keep close to my heart!


 

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10. Perfect Dark. This was one of the first video games I ever really got into, and it blew my ten-year-old brain.  Not only was the action ridiculously cool with a wide variety of kick-ass guns, the story of Joanna (Perfect) Dark was amazing. She was characterised perfectly as sarcastic and witty, whilst simultaneously being nonpareil and a total badass. I spent many hours of my youth shooting out all the lights in the dataDyne headquarters so that Cassandra de Vries would have a huge repair bill. My brother and I also played elaborate multi-player matches where we would spend half an hour setting up bases for the other to infiltrate, or having long-range sniper battles across the stage. In one memorable night of mania, my brother and I eventually abandoned our mission in favour of playing Capture the Flag with Jonathan’s magnum.

 

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9. The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. As you may be aware, I am exceptionally fond of role playing games with interesting moral choices. Tamriel was particularly rich in these, and I spent many, many hours immersing myself in the world and helping its many inhabitants on my quest to become a true warrior. I have particularly fond memories of repairing my centuries-old Akiviri dai-katana, trekking through the lonely mountain ranges, matching wits with Daedric Princes and spending hours meticulously arranging my bookshelf (Note: This was an early picture. My final shelves had 40+ books on them). To read about my excellent and, if I may say so, well thought-out adventures, I regale some of them here and here.

 

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8. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. It’s no exaggeration to say that KotOR shaped the way I live my life and the morals that guide me. I learned so much about the deep universe of Star Wars, particularly the philosophies governing the rather complex and hierarchical organisations of the Jedi and the Sith. Between hunting dragons and shaping civilisations, I spent many hours contemplating the Jedi Code. I didn’t realise at the time that it was based on Buddhism and in many ways Taoism, so I always felt embarrassed to admit that my own life views were strongly shaped by the game. It’s one of the few RPG’s that I’ve played more than once, and its binary morality system combined with sweet D&D combat is a winner every time.

 

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7. The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Twilight Princess is the game that I had dreamed of for years and years. When it finally arrived, I loved it so much that I literally treated it as sacred, and played it only when there was no chance of interruption. Link was the ultimate bad-ass, particularly given his unique sheathing animation after successfully executing an enemy. Playing as a wolf was utter joy, as was riding around Hyrule Field with Epona. Discovering the secrets of the Desert, swimming with the Zora and snowboarding with Yeta are just some of my favourite moments across a beautifully crafted landscape. However what I loved most about the game was Midna’s incredible growth from scorned brat to selfless Princess, a transformation that touches me deeply even today.

 

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6. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker. A surprising entry on the list for me, Wind Waker was a taste that took years to acquire. It was not the Zelda I had been waiting for (see above), but darnit, it was amazing in its own ways. Those open seas, that tight combat, that endearing characterisation of Link as a child rather than a warrior… Miyamoto later said it was his favourite entry to the series because it was everything that he had wanted The Legend of Zelda to be. Eventually I came to I love sailing across that endless blue for hours, and it brought me great pleasure to discover the secrets of each of the islands. Most memorable of all was the room containing the Master Sword where many plot twists took place!

 

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5. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. I have already extolled the brilliance of the Legend of Zelda series, but Skyward Sword holds a special place in my heart for being one of the only video games to make me cry. There is a particular moment in the plot where one person makes a tremendous sacrifice and I found myself moved to tears. Chronologically the first game in The Legend of Zelda series, the shaping of Hyrule and the defining moments of its history was delightful, awe inspiring and beautiful to behold. It was a great pleasure to finally use the Wii-mote as was meant to be used, and I loved every minute of exploring that fantastic world above and beneath the clouds.

 

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4. Guild Wars 2. I have spoken much on Guild Wars lately, describing how addictive I found it, how pleasurable it is in the quiet hours of the early morning, and how it provided the inspiration for a rather sensational dream. Suffice it to say that I adore the world of Tyria, and each of its lovingly crafted inhabitants. The greatest pleasure I derive from the game is not from phat loot or speedruns through dungeons, but from talking to NPC’s, exploring the landscape and seeking out areas that are hidden or difficult to get to. It’s also one of the few multiplayer games in this list, and it has enabled me to meet some of my closest friends.

 

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3. Mass Effect 2. Words cannot adequately contain the praise I have for this masterpiece of story-writing and characterisation. Part of what makes Mass Effect so sublime is the not-too-much-of-a-stretch set-just-in-the-near-future world that the game is based in. The science behind space travel, future technology and the biology and culture of fictional sentient races is utterly commendable. But I think what makes Mass Effect so darn endearing were the conversations and choices that Commander Shepherd constantly had to make. Although on the surface it seemed like the game operated on a binary morality system (Paragon/Renegade), every single dialogue wheel represented a different sort of person that I wanted Shepherd to become. Was he a disciplined military leader? Was he a gentle-hearted warrior? Was he a thoughtful captain, or a romantic lover? Or was he an egomaniacal bully who punches women in the face? As a good friend pointed out to me, we are all Commander Shepherd in a way, and it is the countless choices that we make that enable us to live vicariously as the champion of the human race.

 

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2. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. There has never been a game that I put so much time and thought into as Skyrim. One need only look at the retellings of my adventures in the stories I wrote (parts 1, 2 and 3) to understand just how deep I got into the game. Seriously, give them a read. The extents I went to in order to abide by my character’s strict moral code were perhaps a little bit ridiculous. More-or-less everything I did in the game was aligned with my vision of to breaking down xenophobia and fear, helping others great and small, collecting and protecting dangerous artefacts from all around the world and wielding my unique power as the Dragonborn responsibly. Those 200+ hours are some of the fondest of my life.

 

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1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. My number one, obvious to anyone who knows me. What can I say about this masterpiece? I loved the world, its inhabitants and the story so much that after playing it for the first time, I was utterly transformed into a fanboy and I began trawling the internet for art and fanfiction (even producing some of my own). I wrote quizzes to test people’s knowledge (featuring questions such as “What sort of necklace is Malon wearing?” and “How many steps does Zelda take when she approaches Link in this scene?”). Once as part of my high school English class we were required to write an anthology of poems, and I based every single freaking one on Ocarina of Time. I have purchased and learned to play a variety of ocarinas, have orchestrated and arranged several variations of my favourite soundtracks and have generally incorporated OoT into my life in as many ways as possible. I even have a Mastersword. It’s true that there are games that have better graphics, deeper characters and more enjoyable gameplay. But there has never been such a magical world to live in, so full of secrets and wonders. It is the little things that make Ocarina of Time so great. (I’ll never forget the first time I witnessed dawn at Hyrule and beheld a group of peahats take to the sky (before trying to hack me to pieces)). Each moment of that game is pure magic to me, and I think it will very likely remain my Number 1 for all time.

 

And that’s my list at this moment! I am sure that the list will soon be outdated, as there are so many games that I have yet to play which look to be strong contenders. There are also quite a few games which I dearly loved and wished I could have added, including: Okami, Assassin’s Creed 2, Super Smash Bros. Melee, The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks, The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Pokémon Silver Version, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Mass Effect 3, The Last of Us and Dragon Age: Origins. But alas, they didn’t quite make the cut!

What about you? What are some of your favourite games of all time?

 

EDIT: Late entry, but it must be acknowledged. If I were to re-do the list, Katawa Shoujo would probably come it at Number #3, or maybe even #2. It’s that good.

The Bonds of a Charr

I had an elaborate dream about Guild Wars, and when I was telling Beth about it she convinced me to write it down. I’m glad I did, though you might notice it doesn’t perfectly correlate with the game (such is the nature of dreams. Also, it would have been ridiculous if Atakus was an omniscient wizard who could transform into a kitten.)

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Gyron Burnteye limped into his hut, leaning heavily against the doorframe while his pupils expanded to adjust to the dim light. Aneiwa, his human wife rose to help him, slinging an arm around her strong shoulders and helping him to the bed.
“My leg,” he growled in the old Charr language, drawing up the material of his pants to reveal an inflamed wound. The edges of his dark fur were stained a worrying purple, and despite being weeks old it wasn’t getting any better.
“Gyron, it’s infected. You have to do something about it,” Aneiwa said gently, her eyes filled with concern. At that point, their ten-year-old human son walked in, a question dying on his lips as he saw his father’s injury.
“Not now Sam!” barked Gyron. Sam closed his mouth and left promptly, running out the back door. To his wife he said, “Get some bay leaves, red oak bark, powdered sage…” he rattled off a list of ingredients as she hurried to their small larder. Aneiwa sat by the bedside and began carefully mixing the concoction. As she was adding a bright green powder there was a knock at the door, and she looked at her husband questioningly. Uncertain, he shook his head. Against his wife’s protests, he forced himself to his feet and limped over to the window, peering out into the daylight. Aneiwa’s heart caught in her throat as her husband’s ears flattened against his skull unconsciously. Across the street from their house, Sam was talking to one of the Queen’s Men as four others loaded their rifles. Gyron had known the boy hated him, but he never thought it would come to this.

“Back!” he hissed to his wife as he considered whether he had time to arm himself. Before he could, the first of the men reached the open doorway and let out a yell of surprise as he was grabbed firmly by the jacket and hurled against the wall. The officer slumped to the floor unmoving as the shelves crashed down around him, a basket of cucumbers spilling across the floor. Gyron peered out the window to reassess the distance between the remaining men. The remaining officers were yelling now, their human words sounding harsh and cruel to his ears. They had fanned out, guns raised and were slowly advancing towards the open door. He had only moments to act before they were upon him, and his wounded leg was forgotten as he burst through the door and took the first human by surprise. He smashed the rifle from the man’s grasp with a terrifying snarl and struck him hard in the side of the head with vicious swipe. Without stopping to watch him crumple, he bounded to the next man and seized him by the throat. Gyron’s claws tightened and the officer’s scream died in his throat as he went limp. Gyron’s eyes were wild with rage as he looked for his next mark. An explosion cut through the daylight like a thunderclap as one of the soldiers fired. Gyron staggered from the impact of the bullet, and a moment later another there was another burst of fire and smoke. Gyron had no memory of falling but he found himself on the ground, blood trickling from his chest. Through the intensity of the pain, some part of him was aware of laughter before he felt himself being dragged, lifted and then shoved roughly into a tight space. The world suddenly went dark and he found he could hear only murmurs above the ragged panting of his breath. His heart sank as he realised he had failed, and that he would never see his wife again.

Atakus had just arrived in the great human city of Divinity’s Reach. He had heard about its grand palace and proud spires all of his life, and the first time he had glimpsed them from the road his heart had skipped a beat. He had been travelling for months to get here overland from the Fields of Ruin, a distant human settlement, but it had been worth it. He dreamed of finishing his studies as a lawyer in the The Reach, where he could finally gain the qualifications he needed to assist with the negotiations in Ebonhawke. To this end, his heart had lead his feet all the way to the University of Queensdale. Or at least, it tried to. Somewhere along the line he had taken a wrong turn, and he was now thoroughly lost in the slums of the city. He was deeply engrossed in his map when he heard the sounds of a scuffle, and looked up to see a dark-furred Charr kill two men in uniform.

At first he was alarmed by the violence and assumed that the charr was some kind of criminal being arrested by the Ministry Guard. But the way they laughed as they brought him down unsettled him, and he couldn’t help but notice a woman’s visage in the window, a haunted look upon her face. Some instinct inside of him told him things were not as they seemed and without thinking he sprinted after the carriage, catching it just in time to hang onto the back of it as it hurried through the streets. As Atakus clung on for dear life, he caught sight of the wooden trunk that held the prisoner (though it was barely big enough to contain him). He knew it was his imagination, but he could not supress the vision of the charr curled up at the bottom, alone and in pain. Absurdly, Atakus wished he could crawl inside there and comfort him. His fantasies were cut abruptly short as the carriage began to slow. The young student slipped off before they had quite finished moving and stepped away to observe their surroundings. They had drawn up in front of a grand building which read in gilded letters “MAGISTRATE’S COURT”.  Atakus slipped inside and joined the growing audience who had begun to gather at the sight of the carriage.

It was several minutes before Gyron was dragged before the court, his wrists and ankles bound together by heavy chains. He stood on his own in the centre of the ampitheatre, facing a raised dais upon which sat several councillors in their official robes. Central among them and raised higher than all the rest was a man whose smile curled at the corner of his mouth. The excited murmur of the audience hushed as he spoke:
“Do you know the weight of your crimes?”
Gyron looked at the ground in front of him, breathing heavily. Blood trickled from the side of his maw and dripped slowly to the wooden floorboards. The magistrate’s eyes hardened.
“Answer me, charr. Taciturnity will only worsen your fate.”
Gyron raised his gaze slowly, catching the minister’s eye and holding it for a long moment. The air was heavy with the silence.

“Your Honour,” called Atakus, breaking the tension like ripples upon the surface of still water. The crowd parted for him as he pushed his way forward to stand beside the charr. “Our friend may not speak English. I will speak on his behalf.” The judge started. This had never happened before, and the fool clearly had no idea what was happening. One of the guards moved to intercept the man but the magistrate raised his hand to stop him. This was an unexpected spectacle; perhaps the idiot would provide further entertainment to the proceedings.
“Very well,” he said sitting back in his chair and folding his fingers in front of him. “Let it be known that I am not an unfair judge. You may answer for him.”
To the charr, Atakus quickly said in a feline tongue, “I am a friend. I will help you. You must tell me what has happened.” Gyron couldn’t help a surprised flick of his tail as his eyebrows raised in astonishment. In short words Gyron clenched his teeth against the pain and explained how he was a gladium who had been outcasted by his warband after falling in love with a human. After fleeing to Divinity’s Reach, he could barely provide for his family. There was no work and no food for the likes of him. In desperation, he had begun stealing from a farmer in Queensdale, who had finally shot him in the leg.

Atakus hadn’t dared to believe the stories he’d heard from travellers on the road, but the truth was before him and he could not avert his eyes. In Ebonhawke, there was little love lost between the human and charr.  The two races had fought each other for generations, and there were still factions of separatists and renegades who were too hurt, too blinded by their grief to know anything other than war. But the Fields of Ruin were the forefront of a hard won peace, and Atakus had seen firsthand humans and charr working together. He had always believed that Divinity’s Reach would be a paragon of peace, but it seemed that the rumours of xenophobia were true. All he could see in this great hall of law was hatred, ethnocentricity and corruption.

“Well?” asked the magistrate, tapping his finger on the bench with impatience. Atakus swallowed. He stepped forward to face the council, standing between the charr and his judge.
“Gyron is innocent.” Gasps rose from the audience as the magistrate smiled a smile that showed too many teeth, his lips twitching slightly.
“He is a thief, and a murderer.”
“He is a victim,” Atakus replied, heart pounding in his chest. “He is a refugee who sought peace behind the walls of this great city, and all he has found was injustice and poverty. The government might tolerate the charr’s existence, but they will not support them as citizens, nor help them when they are starving. ” The councillor found he was stunned and then furious.
“The Government does not have the funds to hand money out to every beggar in the streets who-”
“How much gold does the city spend on plays?” Atakus asked suddenly, cutting him off. “How many billions of silvers are spent each year on festivals and feasts? Could not even a handful of coppers be spared to help an old man see his family fed?” He turned to face the audience as he continued his challenge. “Where do all those taxes go? Surely not to the pockets of those who collect them?”
The crowd began to murmur, and that murmur began to rise. Someone yelled something at the councillors that Atakus couldn’t make out over the pounding in his ears. People loved nothing more than to think they’d been cheated, and he knew he was winning them over. This was a dangerous moment: either he would break apart an ancient institution, or he would himself be broken.
“Now see here-” the Magistrate began, trying to regain his composure.

The courtroom exploded into a jumble of yells. Atakus returned to the benches where the public were able to view the proceedings of the court. In spite of it all, the crowd drew away from him, and he found himself alone. Not even the Magistrate would meet his eye, though he could feel wrath emanating from him like steam. He looked at Gladium Gyron, whose golden eyes glittered in the theatre. The old charr dipped his head slightly, and after a moment of surprise Atakus responded in kind. Whatever happened, both of them were bound now, and they would face the end together.

The Kinsey Scale

At last, I’m very happy to publish this blog which I wrote for TINO. I consider it one of the more important posts I’ve ever written, because these ideas can break down much of the fear and discomfort around homosexuality while promoting greater understanding and acceptance of differing sexual orientations. Please read and consider sharing!

 

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Did you know that sexual orientation doesn’t fall neatly into the categories of “gay” or “straight”? Sexual orientation (that is, the gender that a person is attracted to) is often conveniently thought of in binary: you’re either one or the other. You either like boys or you like girls, and depending on which one you like, it means you’re either heterosexual or homosexual. In actuality, there are many different ways that you can classify sexual attraction: there’s bisexuality, pansexuality and asexuality just to name a few. But for the purposes of this blog post, I want to talk about the two most common forms of sexual orientation: heterosexuality and homosexuality. And for simplicity’s sake, I’m also going to make the generalisation that people either identify as male or female (although in reality there are a large number of people who identify as neither).

 

Alfred Kinsey is widely considered the grandfather of modern sexology. He had some pretty radical ideas which are well summarised in the excellent film Kinsey (2004), starring Liam Neeson. For me, the most valuable idea that Kinsey put forward was the idea that human beings are not exclusively homosexual or heterosexual. That is to say, he rejected the idea that you are one or the other. Instead he proposed that there is a scale, ranging from 0 (Entirely heterosexual) to 6 (entirely homosexual), and that most people are somewhere in the middle.

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So what does that all mean? Let me break it down a little further.

Someone who identifies as 0 on the Scale would have no sexual interest or attraction in members of the same sex, none whatsoever. They are exclusively attracted to members of the opposite sex.

Someone who identifies as 1 on the Scale would have “incidental attraction”, meaning they might be surprised to discover they find a member of the same sex to be cute, or they might not immediately look away if homosexual porn popped up while they were browsing. Maybe being gay isn’t really their thing, but they’re kind of curious about it.

A person who identifies as a 2 on the Kinsey Scale would be mostly straight, but also intentionally pursue experiences with members of the same sex as well. If they hadn’t already had direct sexual experiences or relationships with members of the same sex, they probably wouldn’t mind trying it.

3 on the Kinsey scale is perfectly in the middle, where attraction to males and females is about equal.

Someone who identifies as a 4 would be mainly gay, but have experiences of heterosexuality as well. Maybe they don’t mind members of the opposite sex, but they prefer members of the same sex.

People who considers themselves a 5 on the Scale would be mostly homosexual with the occasional interest in members of the opposite sex. They might be curious, or have tried relationships, but they’re really just not into it.

Someone who identifies as 6 on the Scale is exclusively homosexual, only interested in/attracted to members of the same sex.

 

Holy shit right? That explains why sometimes you find yourself attracted to members of the same sex. That explains why sometimes you don’t mind watching lesbian or gay porn. I don’t know about you guys, but I spent a lot of my teenaged years questioning whether I might be gay just because I felt an attraction to other boys. Kinsey’s Scale helped me to understand that it’s perfectly normal to be “somewhere in the middle”.

 

What’s more is that Kinsey wrote on the idea of sexual fluidity. That is to say, once we identify as a particular number on the scale, we don’t have to stick to it. I might be a 2 right now, but who’s to say that next year I might not be a 4? Sexual identities are fluid and can change over time. Just as we change and grow and mature as people, who and what we like can change too.

 

So what do you guys think? Where do you sit on the Scale? Have you always been there? Let me know in the comments down below, and talk to someone else about it! Topics like these aren’t often talked about in our society, but I think we can all agree that for most of us, sexuality is a fundamental part of who we are. Spread the word! Start having more conversations about the Kinsey scale and educate other people as well. For more information about sexuality and gender, I recommend hitting up websites like ReachOut, watching videos by esteemed youtubers such as Ashley Mardell and Laci Green , and checking out books on sexuality in your local library/book store.

 

Stay awesome everyone!

 

-Xin

At my worst

I was going to write a post starting with “When I’m at my best, I’m… and when I’m at my worst, I’m…” when I realised I’d already written it. It is as perfect as the day I wrote it almost a year ago. And I’m so glad I read it, because it continues to inspire and give me hope.

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When I’m at my best, I am truly amazing. I am loving and generous and joyful and resilient and beautiful and strong and hopeful and kind and patient and so forth. I have many excellent qualities which I love about myself, and I hope it is not arrogant of me to declare them publicly. I am an amazing human being, a wonderful person who inspires others and changes things around me in a way that create more joy, love, kindness, acceptance and hope. At least, this seems to be the case a lot of the time.

But when I’m at my worst… The slightest challenge can overwhelm me. I struggle to care about anyone other than myself. I can scarecely muster the strength to look someone in the eyes, and if I attempt a smile (as I did on a walk a few minutes ago) it is a piteous twitching…

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