Max Payne, I Can Happily Say I Don’t Share Yours.

“Baghdad with g-strings.”

Max Payne in Max Payne 3, describing Sao Paulo.

Max Payne has scars as deep as the Grand Canyon on his face, and within his mind. If his name doesn’t provide you with an idea of the heartache of his life, read on. Max Payne has been the protagonist in the Max Payne series, with its third installment developed by Rockstar Games (of Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption fame), that takes its dialogue and cinematics right out of the pages of a Frank Miller graphic novel. The games are dark, gritty and full of blood, booze and pills – not a game I would suggest to someone who is depressed. Max Payne 1 and 2 took Max’s wife, infant child, and anyone that was remotely close to him. Max’s life encapsulates every bit of his destiny driven name.

Three bottles of pills (see red circle) for when Max looks like the guy in the chair.

Max Payne 3 is supposed to be a new start for Max, but we all know that is doomed from the start. Who wants to play a FPS [first person shooter] where the protagonist faces no adversity or threat to his life? That would just be Nintendo’s Duck Hunt. Sorry Max, but your life was only meant to be painful, and Max Payne 3 has yet to disappoint.

My favorite kills so far? Dropping these Jersey Shore knock offs with a smile.

A week ago I had no intention to exposing myself to what I knew would be a depressingly fun shooter. I required games that put the pace at my control. Like Max, I was searching for a change, a career change, and I was finally presented with the opportunity – sadly for Max, my new start will work out better than his. With the fortunate news I received last Sunday (from my future employer), and finally sunk in the following Tuesday, I was once again ready to embrace games that were frantically fun. I could once again wrap my hand around a FPS, like Max wraps his hand around his pistol.

If I were Max I would be less concerned about being killed by a bullet, and more concerned about dying from cancer, liver failure, or an overdose from painkillers. Max is constantly drinking and smoking in cut scenes. He heals himself in-game by popping pain killers that are generously spread throughout the environment. He is a mess. It makes me wonder if the Max Payne franchise wasn’t originally developed by the marketing department of large drug conglomerate. I can only imagine playing this game a month ago when I felt stuck in my lack of employment. I could have seen myself being tempted to raise a glass every time Max took a drink of his favorite cocktail (2 parts whiskey, 1 part painkiller and 2 parts cigarette). Now, I can enjoy the game and Max’s captivating depression, while enjoying a laugh and a Leffe.

Max’s future, if the booze, bullets and painkillers don’t get him first.

Civ 5, Helping Me And My Society Survive.

I returned to Sid Meier’s Civilization V [Civ 5] over the last week, and it had nothing to do with the recently released expansion Civilization V: God and Kings. No, my return to this top-down turn based civilization game (where victory is achieved through research, diplomacy, expansion, economic development, government and military) was based on my desire to play a game that wasn’t frantic and could be enjoyed at my own pace. The beauty of turn based games is in their flow, which you dictate. What I was looking for (and found) in my return to Civ 5 was control, and the calming effect a turn based game brings – despite the constant harassment from the warlike civilization of the Songhai.

Pearls, Aluminum, Incense and Gold; yep, Genoa, you will make a perfect ally.

With the restart of my career potentially on the horizon, once again, I needed a game that could act as a sedative rather than a shot of adrenaline. With first person shooters [FPS] you are constantly on edge. The FPS experience is not relaxing, but an edge of your seat ride – it’s like you are Liam Neeson himself, in Taken. During times of high stress, where I am playing the waiting game, I find myself reverting to a turn based prescription. When things are a bit out of control, a game that places you as the leader of a civilization provides that dose of Stalinism that everyone needs.

The winning conditions of Civ 5 are within your control as well. One does not need to just kill the competition; culture and science are other routes one can take to victory. You can build your societies’ level of intelligence by focusing on education, or go greedy and go for the gold (non-Olympic style). Or, if you are like me, you can build a well-rounded society through education, capitalism and democracy; while you simultaneously mask your Manhattan Project.

Yes America, I do put a lot of resources into my education system (but even more into my nuclear program).

Civ 5 provides you with a game that allows you to dictate pace, victory conditions, and about as many aspects of building a society that you can imagine. When everything else is out of your hands, Civ 5 provides just enough control to help you stay regulated. It allows you to make decisions that impact your entire society. You control your political relationships with other empires and city-states. You control your economic rise and educational aspirations, and when you get bored with being decent, you can unleash your Manhattan Project on the Songhai.

Little did you know Songhai, that I was saving the Manhattan Project just for you.

I Euthanized My Friend. Thanks DayZ.

“The needs of the many outweigh [the needs of the few], or the one.”

Spock [Admiral Kirk], Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan

From about 100 yards away, I shot him in the face. I killed my friend, and he asked me to do it. DayZ presented me with a scenario I’ve never played nor seen, in any other game. DayZ, once again, made me wonder if I could respond with the same murdering empathy that I demonstrated in game, in reality. Could I shoot a near and dear friend in the face when asked? Could I put Old Yeller out to pasture? What DayZ made clear to me that day was the answer was yes; but only because he was infected with a zombie virus whose cure was as likely to be found as the Holy Grail.

Tim (the above murdered survivalist) has started to acquire the role of the reluctant martyr within DayZ’s island of Chernarus. Multiple times he has fallen from a PvP (player versus player) encounter, zombie swarm and now, the zombie infection itself. Regularly dying is something any survivalist or bandit within DayZ can relate to. The differences with Tim’s deaths are they usually benefit the others. For when Tim dies, it’s habitually right before his friends scavenge his remains. Tim doesn’t die needlessly, for when his blood spurts to zero, he dies well equipped-and he makes sure you are close by before he does so.

Tim’s most significant death happened after he was infected (a random occurrence in DayZ; caused by either direct contact with zombies or a low body temperature brought on by the elements) with the zombie strain that persists in DayZ. After a desperate attempt to find the cure (antibiotics) at Berezino’s hospital, all hope was lost. Instead of taking every last zombie with him to the grave, he opted to sacrifice himself for a friend.

One is just as rare as the other, from a certain point of view.

Thanks to a recent patch my character had spawned in weaponless, without a backpack, and with little hope. Thankfully Tim’s near dead body was nigh, and it had one more trip to make before embracing the end. We met on a hill, and due to Tim’s infection his gifting of goods was done at a distance, so as to keep my character from being infected-a distant goodbye to a close friend.

Not wanting the zombie infection to take him, and become a shell of his former self, he asked me to do him one last deed in return for his. From a distance I raised my AK-47’s optical sight appreciating the irony that it had, moments before, belonged to the character I was now lining up for a headshot. Kneeling and looking down range I peered into his character’s black tinted aviator sunglasses which now, more resembled the sad eyes of trusted family dog. I pulled the trigger twice, and his body fell. Then Tim respawned, and our online adventures continued.