Dream a Dream: The Bizarre Realities of The Dreamer

If there’s anything that is hard to debate, it’s that dreams are nonsensical. They are the thoughts we have when we go to sleep, and are usually jumbled by our subconscious into a mess of nonsense. What most people do not know is that dreams can get pretty insane for people with a strong imagination. I happen to be one of those people, a person who’s imagination is so strong that it has a tendency to overwhelm my dreams.

Dreams and nightmares are my forte, as I’ve had plenty of both. I’ve even made a few dream journals, to document such wild fantasies. One of my crazier dreams involved me being both a werewolf and a farmer, hiding from the “Werewolf Police”. These were paranormal investigators, who solely hunted lurking lycanthropes. The dream ended with the Werewolf Police getting a tip from the mayor about my secret, to which I was promptly arrested.

Dreams like that are the ones I find to be most interesting, ones that combine reality with fiction. It’s hard to have a dream that is “100% reality”, since our dreams are really a collection of our thoughts and experience congealed into an unholy mixture. Some dreams I’ve had have strained the line between real and fake before, in sometimes truly bizarre fashions.

For example, I used to have a job that involved me working in an office. A lot of what I did was pretty routine and not too eventful. Eventually, this repetition caused a rather bizarre dreaming experience I refer to as “The Unofficial Sequel To Groundhog Day”. The dream was pretty basic, it involved me waking up, getting ready for work in my usual fashion, and then coming downstairs to eat breakfast with my parents.

About the only thing that was out of the ordinary with this dream was that my parents were watching cartoons, something they never did in real-life. Eventually, I wake up from my dream and find myself in bed. I wasn’t too annoyed by this, and simply went back to sleep… Only to have the exact same dream again. I wake up from this monotonous dream and fall asleep, only to have things repeat once more.

It became a rhythm with me, falling asleep only to dream about my morning ritual and wake up immediately afterwards. This continued all throughout the night, and eventually in bed with my eyes wide open, unsure if I was in a dream or reality. That’s the thing about some dreams, they can be very strong indeed.

Our sleeping mind is a powerful thing indeed, stronger than the most powerful of computers. I’ve had dreams where I gain immense super-powers, or dreams where I travel across Medieval Europe on the back of a powerful horse. One dream I remember very vividly had me as an astronaut, one on a bizarre and distant planet. On this fantastical world, I leaped from sky-ship to soaring shy-ship. Joining me was a talking green alien monkey, a bizarre creature one would expect of this world.

Now, one may look at their dreams and think they are nonsense and dribble. I’ve always cherished my dreams, even the truly weird or out there ones. To me, having a weird dream is like getting to watch a movie for free! My intense imagination paints me this truly fantastical realm, one that I slide into on a nightly basis. These bizarre worlds are always something different, always changing from what they were in previous nights.

While my dreams are fantastical and fanciful, my nightmares are usually pretty realistic. I’ve had dreams of being stalked by insidious beings, or running away from dangerous animals. One dream I had when I was younger involved a spider drifting down from the ceiling, preparing to land on my unconscious face. A simple and basic nightmare, but it was enough to set off the arachnophobe in me. I woke up and was instantly taken by the imaginary fear that I had just experienced.

I quickly took a daring leap off my bed, one that could rival similar stunts from cheesy 80s cops shows. After my over-dramatic leap, I hid in the corner for nearly 10 minutes. After fully waking up and realizing that the spider existed only in my imagination, I immediately walked back to my bed and returned to my slumber.

Despite my often times embarrassing nightmares, I still had fun dreaming. It was nice getting to see another reality, one created by the ever-flowing oasis of my overabundant imagination. The thing about dreaming is that you don’t need a hyperactive imagination to have a good or memorable dream, you just need to sleep.

If you want to have some real fun, I suggest putting a notepad and pen by your bed. Upon waking up, immediately write what you had just dreamed about down. Log everything you can remember about your dream, this will make it more likely that you’ll have a similar dream again. A dream can easily slip through your mind if you don’t take the time to write it down or commit it to memory, I’ve learned this the hard way.

The dreams in your sleep are like the dreams you have in real life, you either commit to them or lose them entirely. To me, dreaming is a passion that I’ll never give up on. Dreams what helped my imagination grow when I was younger, and now my imagination helps cultivate my memorable nonsensical dreams. I’ll leave you with this question: What makes more sense, the dream or the dreamer?

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The Rise and Fall of Video-Game Strategy Guides

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These are the fanciest guidebooks to surviving a nuclear apocalypse ever!

Believe it or not, beating a game used to be serious business. If you bought a game and got stuck back in the day, that was usually it. In the 90s and early 2000s, getting stuck usually meant not being able to progress at all. This could be because of a tough boss fight, a lack of direction, or the inability to figure out a puzzle. However, there was something that would often help with such a problem: The strategy guide.

Strategy guides were special books, tailored to telling you how to beat the games they were based on. Strategy guides originally started off as sections in gaming magazines, ones that would walk you through sections of the game. There were also “Tips & Tricks” columns in various gaming magazine articles. These were usually designed to give the player secrets, hints, or general advice when it came to playing the game.

Nintendo Power, Electronic Gaming Monthly, and the official Playstation Magazine were pretty good when it came to giving out the good stuff. Eventually though, it was decided to give video-game guides their own separate books. Thus, the concept of “Strategy Guides” were born. These books were great, and still are in many ways!

Beyond them just telling you how to play the game, they also featured colored images from the game. While some guides did have a black-and-white color palette, these were usually less common than the colored ones. Fully colored strategy guides ruled, especially for people who just like to have the guide on hand.

I just love strategy guides, because they’re fun to read before bed. The one thing I hate doing is playing a game right before I go to sleep, and keeping myself up late because of it. Sometimes, it’s fun to just sit and read about the game. Sure, I love playing each and every game I can get my hands on, but I also love reading about them just as much.

That’s why both gaming magazines and strategy guides have a big place in my heart. Sadly, strategy guides are a dying breed. You’ll usually only see them being released for the big games, not so much the smaller titles. Back in the day, strategy guides would come out for almost every game under the sun. Nowadays, guides are a rarity.

Unless it’s a big release like Elder Scrolls, Fallout, or some other big franchises, then chances are it won’t be getting a guide. A lot of this comes down to GameFaqs, which made getting guides for games super easy. People would just write their own guides, post them to the site, and allow people to look up how to beat the game for free.

As a result of this, strategy guides were slowly phased out and are barely existent nowadays. Still, I love looking back at once was and reflecting on the greatness that was and still is strategy guides! Even when I don’t need them to help beat a game, it’s still fun to have one around to flip through on occasion!

Personal Thoughts: Did Bethesda Win E3?

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That’s one badass looking skeleton!

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (AKA E3) has really only just started, but that hasn’t stopped various companies from going all out already. Despite the fact that the event has only just begun, people are already saying that “Bethesda has won E3”. Bethesda is the company behind hit open-world games like Fallout, Elder Scrolls, and Fury.

This year’s conference was really a turning point for Bethesda, allowing them to really show off what they’ve been working on for the past half-decade, a lot of which seems very interesting. Beth had a ton of new and interesting games to showcase, which most people are very excited for. The main one was Fallout 76, which looks awesome!

Fallout 76 is an online survival game, one with a focus on exploration. You can journey on your own, or with friends. You can also nuke the ever-loving hell out of any area in the Wasteland, which is pretty dang crazy! It’s an open-world game with a world that is advertised to be 4 times larger than Fallout 4, which is just plain awesome!

I’ve already talked about 76 on this blog, so I’m not going into too much detail on it. Bethesda also announced sequels to hit games that they’ve published, like Doom and Rage. I’m not really into those kinds of games, since they aren’t really my genres of choice. I know a lot of people are excited about them, but they’re just not my cup of tea.

One of the most interesting announcements was for “Elder Scrolls: Blades”, one of the newest games in the long-running series. The idea behind Blades is that it’s a massive open-world Elder Scrolls game, but designed solely for your smartphone. Todd Howard touts it as having “console-quality graphics”, as well as having an open-world that’s part hand-crafted and part randomly generated.

From what was shown of the game, it seems interesting. I like the idea of having a legitimate Elder Scrolls game on the go, as most portable ES games in the past have been rather bland. I probably won’t play Blades, as I don’t think my phone would be powerful enough to run it. The graphics look way too intensive for my dinky Galaxy Grand-Prime, but I’ll probably get a better phone in the future regardless.

I just hope this game isn’t one of those mobile phone scams, where they constantly pester you for money every two steps. I know game companies have to make their money, it just annoys me when they turn an interesting phone game into a monetized abomination. Here’s hoping that Bethesda can turn this game into something that’s both unique and fair, one that doesn’t charge you real money for every singular action.

Beth followed this announcement with even more Elder Scrolls content. They announced new DLC packs and patches for The Elder Scrolls Online, as well as showcasing a rather hilarious parody video called “Skyrim: Very Special Edition”. The biggest Elder Scrolls announcement had to be the announcement of Elder Scrolls VI.

You think this would be a tremendous and memorable moment, which sadly it was not. The teaser was just a bunch of mountains, followed by the game’s title. The sub-title wasn’t even shown, nor was any gameplay or cinematic flare. The title was enough to get people excited, but I’ll hold my reservations until I actually see the game.

Bethesda also announced a new sci-fi open-world RPG, one that goes by the name “Starfield”. Sadly, the trailer for it was super disappointing as well. It was basically a shot of space, followed by the game’s title. Not sure why Bethesda chose to formerly announce two of their biggest upcoming games in such a disappointing way, but they did. People are still excited for these games, so let’s hope Bethesda can deliver.

Personally, I think Bethesda did a good job on this press conference. Do I believe they’ve won E3? Well, I’d have to see the other conferences first before I can fully decide. Still, after the crap that went on last year with the “Creator’s Club”, it’s nice to see Bethesda stepping up to create new content that isn’t paid mods. So, what are your guys’ thoughts? Did Bethesda win E3, despite it only just starting? Or is Bethesda’s E3 presentation a giant sham?

Syrup’s Indie Showcase: “Stories: The Path of Destinies”

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That’s a rather stylish cast of critters!

Believe it or not, I love games that have a “book/novel” feel to them. It’s always cool seeing a game incorporate elements of classic written storytelling, like the kind you’d find in an old-school novel or fairy-tale. Soul Sacrifice is one such game that comes to mind when this subject is brought up, with it being a game that combined book-style storytelling with action-based gameplay. However, there was another game with a similar premise.

I’m talking about “Stories: The Path of Destines”, a rather obscure Indie game released on Steam in 2016. Stories was created by Spearhead Games, the same developers behind the underrated puzzle game known as “Tiny Brains”. Stories told the tale of an anthropomorphic fox named “Reynardo”. In a world of similar bipedal animals, Reynardo has always tried his best to live life his way.

During his temporary retirement from his zany adventures, Reynardo is roped into trying to save a youth in a war-zone. The youth ends up being killed, which leads into Reynardo coming into possession of a magic book. From there, Reynardo sets out on a quest to topple the evil raven empire and free the kingdom.

The game is like a choose-your-own adventure book, in the way that most endings will lead Reynardo to an early grave. However, Reynardo can use the book to travel back in time and access its knowledge in order to figure out a way for him to both survive and save the kingdom.

The game’s real draw isn’t the story however, but rather it’s combat. Stories plays like most dungeon crawlers, but with an emphasis on dodging and strategy. You can’t just barrel into a room and slaughter bird-men effortlessly, you need to get both your timing and strategy right. If you don’t, then Reynardo will be sent to an early grave. Luckily, death in this game is a slap on the wrist, so dying and having to restart from a checkpoint isn’t so bad.

The game also has an intricate skill upgrade system, along with several weapons that can be enhanced using ore. Despite starting off as a simple game, Stories quickly blossoms into a rich and amazing action RPG. Sure, parts of the game’s opening are slow, and the lack of bosses is rather disappointing.

That doesn’t change the fact that the game is a hoot, and is one of the few action RPGs with a solid and interesting story throughout. Each story gives you a new and unique ending, one that distances itself greatly from the others. When I get the chance to play more of this game, I’ll be sure to give it a proper review. For now, I’ll just say that this is one of the best action RPGs I’ve played in a while!

My Thoughts On Fallout 76’s Surprise Announcement

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That’s one fancy jumpsuit!

Something that came completely out of nowhere just a few days ago, was an announcement for the next game in the “Fallout” series”. Fallout is a series that focus on your player character trying to survive during the post-apocalypse, while engaging in tons of quests and becoming stronger. Fallout 76 was announced just a couple days ago, and no one really knows what it’s about or what team will be developing it.

All we know is that it takes place 25 years after the bombs dropped, and supposedly takes place in West Virginia. Now, nobody knows what the game is going to play like. The main theory is that this new Fallout will be an “online survival” game, much like Rust. There’s not much info on the game, but there’s already talks of pre-orders.

I’m not sure why discussion on pre-orders is even on the table, since the game’s details haven’t even been fully explained yet. If Fallout 76 does turn out to be an online survival game, I would totally buy and play it. Being able to play a Fallout game with other people seems like a dream come true, as the series is practically begging for an online adaptation.

Still, it’s a bit too early to tell. We won’t find out until E3, where they will fully reveal the game. I’m not going to get hyped or excited for Fallout 76, no matter what it is. If it does turn out to be an online game, then it would certainly pique my interest. Me buying the game comes down to how they market it, how well it functions, and how fun it is. Here’s hoping Bethesda can redeem themselves in the public’s eye by putting together a truly great game.

The Most Messed Up Ending To A Cartoon Ever: Bonus Stage

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How a show ends is usually in the hands of a network, and rarely do the creators of said franchises get to end the series the way they want to. A lot of shows with stories or lore often end up getting cancelled before they can complete their run, but there are some exceptions to this rule. One such example are web-cartoons, which don’t have to abide by network standards and are usually at the creative control of the person making them.

Of course, this doesn’t mean web-cartoons are immune to cancellation. Web-cartoons are often self-funded projects and are bound by the limitations of the animators and the amount of funds they have on hand. A good example of this was Matt Wilson’s “Bonus Stage”, a forgotten web cartoon from the early 2000s.

Bonus Stage originally started as a web-cartoon called “High Score”. High Score revolved around two protagonists: A mad-scientist and inventor named Joel, and his rather normal in comparison friend Phil. Joel’s crazy inventions often dragged Phil and his other friends into trouble, but they were only the tip of the iceberg. Phil and Joel had to deal with plenty of other threats, such as strange creatures invading, or maniacal super-villains. All the while, our heroes would crack wise at the situation and make video-game references.

The series was created by Matt in an attempt to compete with the biggest flash cartoon series at the time: Homestarrunner. It was hard to top that series, as most flash animation at the time was pretty basic and trivial. While High Score possessed a more detailed art-style, it’s awkward animation made it much less appealing than the series Matt was trying to compete with.

Eventually, Matt wanted to create a companion series for High Score, one that he could do as a side project. He wanted to craft a web-cartoon that could be updated on a weekly basis, one that also used a simpler animation style to speed up production. Thus, Bonus Stage was born! In a way, Bonus Stage was kind of a genius idea. While High Score was a decent series, it felt too derivative of most video-game web-comics out at the time.

Bonus Stage was actually fairly different, in that a lot of its humor was more rapid-fire and random than High Score’s had been. Characters would spew out catchphrases left and right, and very little made sense. High Score was pretty nonsensical too, though not to the same extent as Bonus Stage was.

Still, Bonus Stage was a very fun series. Jokes were paced well, the soundtrack was solid, and the characters (despite an ever expanding cast) were pretty good overall. Over time, Matt Wilson found himself starting to like Bonus Stage. What started as just a way to update faster and on a weekly basis eventually began to overtake the main series.

High Score ended up getting cancelled after just 4 episodes, with the 5th episode never being made, and the 6th episode being incorporated into the 25th episode of Bonus Stage. As a result, Bonus Stage ended up outliving High Score by quite a large margin. The show continued on for quite a while, but eventually Matt’s interest in the series died.

The primary reason why this happened was due to the fan-base Matt’s series had attracted. Flash cartoons were extremely popular at the time, but not everyone had the talent or the knowledge required to create animations. As a result, some fans would develop a creepy obsession with Matt, due to their infatuation with his series and his skills. According to Matt, he was stalked in real-life, harassed, and threatened by hard-core fans.

On top of this, Bonus Stage became increasingly expensive to make. New music had to be made for later seasons, and Matt had to pay the 2 voice actors as well. As a result, Bonus Stage became ever more pricey to produce. With a fan-base that is over-obsessive, and an ever-growing price-tag for his animation, Matt eventually decided to call it quits.

Now, I’ve spent a lot of time talking about what High Score and Bonus Stage were, but not what the ending entailed. To keep a long story short, Phil had grown increasingly annoyed with Joel’s antics. Eventually, Phil travels back in time, accidentally erases himself from existence, and Joel takes his own life out of complete boredom. Yes, that all actually happened.

Phil travelling back in time was unique concept, and allowed for Matt to insert modern Phil into older episodes. However, what followed after Phil destroying the timeline was something rather… Freaky. You see, death in Bonus Stage had been pretty inconsequential at that point. Pretty much every time a character died,¬†they would come back to life in the very next episode. The characters were pretty much immortal.

However, Phil traveled back in time to a point when Joel hadn’t created the device to give everyone immortality, at least within the virtual world in which Bonus Stage takes place. As a result, Phil and Joel dying in the past had extreme alterations on the future. As a result, pretty much everything was erased. I mean this quite literally, as all the episode links became broken after this event.

Each link lead you to an empty black screen, complete with creepy music playing in the background. Eventually, a group of secondary characters managed to travel back in time using a time machine dropped by Phil when he traveled back in time to episode 25. They present Joel from offing himself, and convince him to create a device to restore reality. Yes, it’s very confusing and weird.

Of course, Joel ends up putting a button on the device that would end Bonus Stage in an “overtly happy and non-canon” way. After creating the device, Joel takes his own life again regardless and then the series just ends. The final episode after this seems to be the result of the button being pressed, as it resolves nothing and is just an overtly happy non-canon epilogue.

Bonus Stage ended on a bit of a downer, followed by a rather unsatisfying attempt to lighten things up. The thing is, I can’t really blame Matt for doing it. He had to deal with an obsessive and demanding fan-base, despite being only one man. Sure, there are plenty of content creators who do their work solo and without anyone’s help, yet are able to manage their fan-bases just fine.

Thing is, it’s not the same when you’re an animator in the early-to-mid 2000s. Youtube hasn’t taken off yet, and social media hadn’t reached the point of being a necessity for most people yet. As a result, there were very few ways Matt could interact with his fan-base. When he did interact with them, he always got the blunt end of the worst parts of his fandom.

Stalked, harassed, and cyber-bullied for just making a silly cartoon is where most people would draw the line. Matt Wilson’s story can relate to a lot of people, as fame often comes with a large series of downsides. Even when Matt did end his series, he never gave up on making cartoons. He still makes new shows, but they don’t garner the same kind of interest as Bonus Stage did.

Sadly, Matt Wilson will forever be the “Bonus Stage” guy. He’ll be the guy who made a great web-series, but had to ditch it because of insane fans and increasingly high production values. I still think Bonus Stage is great, even after all these years. Is it weird, insane, dark, and random? It is, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a show that had a twisted ending, but was enjoyable throughout.