Lasombra Files Episode 30: Enter the Varjo

Welcome to season 3 of the Lasombra Files, PSU’s weekly hit program. Follow the story of Lasombra and V as they try to solve an inter-dimensional murder mystery of ostentatious proportions, while at the same time shining the spotlight on gamers around the world and in our community.

Rain; a torrential downpour cools the streets this hot spring night. Back on a beat we stake-out a crime scene waiting for the cops to give their statement. Even in these new bodies the task is still the same, although shooting side-by-side with myself does make the task rather weird to put it lightly. Another week, another body found mutilated and discarded like waste. Saikou wasn’t with the network for very long but that didn’t stop his body from being strung up and hanging over a street bridge for traffic to see. The same message scrawled along the bridge’s stainless steel exterior in episode 30: Enter the Varjo. I’d half expect Max to be found dead in a red light district, considering his on-air persona. Still, more disturbing is the lack of empathy by anyone. Is this world so perverse, demented, bankrupt of any decency or basic respect that even when a man’s body is plastering a landmark for all to see that it doesn’t stop them from paying to get lucky? I don’t know who is worse.

Name: Arvin De la Cruz
Age: 25
Gender: Male
Occupation: GIS Analyst
Country: New Zealand

Disclaimer: This interview is reproduced as written by the interviewee. Pictures copyright of their artist/photographer/owner. All likenesses used are for parody and/or satirical purposes.

Lasombra: How long have you been gaming?

Admartian: Probably since I was 5 or 6, so about 20 years. First thing I remember playing was Tank Battles (on the NES or SNES?) and the first Civilization, those were the games that really reeled me in.

Lasombra: How did you find PSU?

Admartian: I remember the news that the PS3 was announced, so I decided to look up websites. I wasn’t a big forum-goer back then, but I stumbled upon the site that was the first PSU (I can’t remember what it was called). Obviously it had the PS3 in the name.

Lasombra: Are you solely a Sony gamer this generation or do you split your time between multiple systems?

Admartian: I’ve been predominantly a Sony gamer. I split time with my 360 and laptop to play other games. I tried getting the hang of handhelds by purchasing a PSP but never got into it, so my portable gaming is done on my Android tablet.

Lasombra: What do you like about the community at PSU that keeps bringing you back for more?

Admartian: At first I really liked the information and news (when we used to have guys like Nuvian and this other guy, but all I can remember was his horseman with a sword avatar).

These days it’s more about chilling, telling jokes (this gets me in trouble more often than not though…) and just talking games and random stuff (like the NFL and Game of Thrones threads).

Lasombra: In your opinion, what needs to be done to help the community to grow bigger and better?

Admartian: I don’t really have anything specific in mind. I think we’ve had quite a few new posters. Trick is just getting them to engage and such. Which I know can be a bit daunting or intimidating, especially seeing some of the more established members.

Anything to keep people posting and coming back is good. So whatever that is!

Lasombra: Do you have any gaming goals for this year?

Admartian: Yes! To clear my backlog and play/finish some of the games I may have missed out on. I’ve even put off playing the newer games until I do. Which I know just creates a self-perpetuating backlog.

That and to save up for a PS4. We get charged pretty much double down here…

Lasombra: Are you a Trophy hunter, and what do you think about trophies overall?

Admartian: I used to be a trophy hunter. Nowadays I don’t really care for Trophies, mainly because I don’t have time. Maybe when I clear my backlog I suppose.

Though I think Trophies/Achievements give gaming that extra bit of motivation to continue playing them and keep each other competitive. Games that give you a good, but interesting and fun challenge with trophies are great. But online required trophies are just evil…

Lasombra: The PS2 dominated a console war like no other system. What tricks does Sony need to pull out of their hat to create the same magic with the PS4?

Admartian: Games, plain and simple.

They just need to continue pumping out the diversity of their lineup, from Journey to the Last of Us, and from God of War to Gran Turismo. When we get nostalgic about those games, we’re thinking about the games and not some silly sales figures.

In saying that, advertising games (and doing it properly) definitely wouldn’t hurt Sony.

Lasombra: Do you have a favourite era of gaming? The SNES/Genesis war? The reign of the PlayStation Reich? Hail to the NES?

Admartian: Easily the PlayStation Reich. I’m not old enough to fully appreciate the "glory days" of retro (8/16 bit) gaming.

Lasombra: Is there a lot of gaming culture in your area of the world? Unique stores, conventions, etc?

Admartian: Here there is a little bit. We have the Armageddon Expo (which is basically Comic lite lite) where games are showcased but that’s about it.

Though a lot of people (especially around my age range) play games, but won’t necessarily label themselves a gamer or a geek.

Lasombra: Have you ever been burnt out from a gaming session?

Admartian: Yeah from time to time. Mainly it’s form games that give me headaches though. More often than not, I end up falling asleep from gaming sessions rather than walking away.

If I walk away from a game (say Madden) it’s just to go to my laptop and play something like Civilization. That or watch sports.

Lasombra: Why do you think everything costs double in New Zealand? Do you think that is hurting and preventing the gaming userbase from expanding?

Admartian: I’ve asked some EB Games employees about this, and the explanation I’ve got is that it’s to do with shipping; and distance to manufacturer. Where games costs $60 USD ($70 NZD) overseas but are around $120 NZD (~$100 USD) here. While I don’t necessarily disbelieve them, I can’t think that it costs $40/$50 RRP more just to ship games here (and consoles).

To a certain extent I think that it is. There are more people buying from online distributors like MightyApe (which often sells games at a discount, and is luckily a local company at least) but not everyone may necessarily know about the cheaper prices and thus either avoid buying games at regular intervals. Though I don’t know if the pricing has any real significance on deterring potential gamers a lower price wouldn’t hurt.

What I think is the real inhibitor in the expansion of the userbase is the perception of gaming. Like most other parts of the world, it’s still seen as this niche thing; but may not realize it’s one of the biggest industries in the world. That and they don’t always identify that at some level, they may be gamers themselves!

Lasombra: Being a Civilization player, why do you think it has barely been ported to consoles despite being a turn-based strategy game?

Admartian: Keyboard and mouse controls. I know the PS3 supports it (though I’ve heard that the 360 does too) and it’s just up to the devs to implement it. I think games like this are best experienced with the traditional ‘KB & M’ controls, though XCOM managed to be relatively successful on consoles despite this. But that game didn’t have as many acute nuances in terms of controlling your civ and managing everything else that a game like Civilization 5 may have.

That, and console and PC gamers generally have differing audiences in terms of preferred games (PC Gaming Master Race and all!)

Lasombra: What games are gracing your backlog that you`ve not sunk your gaming teeth into?

Admartian: Alan Wake, Portal 1/2, Transformers Cybertron games (the good ones), Metro 2033, plus many others as well as the recent games from November last year onwards (which includes Dishonored, Dead Space 3, BioShock: Infinite etc).

Yeah, it’s pretty bad…

Lasombra: How much would a fair price be for the PS4 do you think? Will Sony over price the system again or make it cheaper?

Admartian: I think they’ll make it cheaper, but by how much is unknown. Probably not by much. A fair price would be around $450 USD/ $800NZD, at least I’m trying to think realistically.

Lasombra: What needs to happen for New Zealand to get on the gaming map and come up with their own Team Bondi, just one that doesn`t go out of business after one game?

Admartian: Well NZ has Sidhe/PikPok and that’s pretty much it. I think it’ll take some creative and risk-taking individuals to truly try and make some next-gen games simply because we don’t necessarily have the gaming contacts (or at least enough of a presence) here for these types of companies/developers to show up in that magnitude.

Right now, only the tablet/phone developing space is really the only thing that I can see growing in the near future, unless Sony or MS decide to fund other teams to encourage them to make games for their platforms.

Lasombra: Which games give you headaches?

Admartian: Mainly first person shooters that are ‘too fast’. Bioshock at first gave me headaches. It took me months to get into it. Same for Mirror’s Edge (I’ve never gotten far enough into it for that reason) and most recently RAGE (had to take quite a few breaks to finish it).

I don’t know what it is though because 60fps racing games, or third person shooters don’t get to me like that.

The cops know nothing and give nothing in their brief press conference. We are given the gruesome task of videotaping the scrubbing of the bridge, as a tech team swabs, pictures, and cleans the scene of the horror killing. Like a broken record I can’t get over the feeling something is not adding up about the attempted hit on my other self. Are the two related, or is someone different after both of me, and this is all one big coincidence. As we head towards the news van a man walks towards us. If this were not already a twisted cosplay city then I would think he’d stand out in his ninja grab. All he does is hand me a slip of paper in episode 31: The Meeting. Opening it is a street address and an ear piece. I put it in my ear and after a moment a voice speaks to me. Without asking a single word the ninja man walks away; a messenger finished with his task. The voice tells me to go to the location and half of the mystery will be revealed, and that there is more to this story than meets the eye.

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